Grizzly Bear's "Shields" keeps their sound alive
Upon first listen, Brooklyn-based band Grizzly Bear’s new album is not unlike other recently released albums to hit the trendy urban scene. “Shields,” released Tuesday, is reminiscent of murky grunge tones that come from bigger names in the indie world. While still sticking to the typical Grizzly Bear fashion of melancholic electronic beats coupled with mellow sounds from other instruments, this album delves deeper into a realm filled with haunting melodies, vocals comparable to Thom Yorke’s, and a style of riffing on guitar that is very hectic without being "shredding.”
As a work of art, the album is complete and unified, creating an occasionally gloomy atmosphere for the listener, with measures of soft piano beneath a quiet echo-y guitar, juxtaposed with booming drum beats and emotive vocals just seconds before in the same track. Later on in the album jazz drums, light horns, and some bluesy piano surprises the listener, contrasting with the primarily rock-based sound produced on other tracks. Rarely do bands keep the audience guessing as to what the next movement will be like Grizzly Bear’s recent skillfully-produced work.
"Shields" is melancholy with occasional upbeat numbers
The album opens strongly with “Sleeping Ute,” beginning with a catchy guitar riff and drum build that brings one back to the drug-encrusted hits of the 70s. Following the intro comes flowing, mellifluous verses intermittent with brassy high notes and thundering percussion beneath. Setting the tone for the rest of the album, the track ventures into territories both calming and stirring that are reverberated throughout all ten tracks.
The rest of the album follows in the manner of the first track with the exception of sparing upbeat tracks of “Speak in Rounds” and the single “Yet Again,” making the album an antonym to sunshine indie pop of Givers and Ingrid Michaelson. The generally slow-paced, nearly monotone feel to the album makes it easy to work over the music. One might find oneself writing an article for a school newspaper on a late night with a cup of coffee in hand, listening to the songs blend into each other for a nice background noise.
Grizzly Bear's strength lies in their unity
The subtle noise produced on the record is an ideal unification of the talents of all the band members, no single person’s abilities standing out above the rest. The band truly came together and made sure that everyone’s abilities were used to their potential to make an audible painting. “Shields” is arguably Grizzly Bear’s most artistic album, and is definitely not the type of music one would play at a lively dinner party.
An album created for brooding writers, starving artists, diverse musicians and other such patrons of all things artistic, it would appear that Grizzly Bear is not trying to gain any new members to their fanbase. The album welcomes those with a doleful hipster sonic aesthetic, and alienates optimism and cheerful indie pop that produces bands like Fun. Most fans in the blogosphere seem to be enthralled by it, showing their excitement by listening to it over and over, repeatedly dubbing it “album of the year” and “a wonderful music experience.”
The album as a whole was not entirely thrilling or revolutionary, as it seems that Grizzly Bear has caught the psychedelic indie bug that most in the hipster and indie crowd have adored in the past year. It may be a standout album for the band itself, but will not be a chart-topper unless hardcore fans bring it the fortune they believe it deserves. Grizzly Bear ambitiously put out this artistic record in a time when art for its own sake is increasingly underappreciated. If the band’s goal was to remain known as an “underground indie” group, they certainly achieved it with the spacey sounds and trippy resonances on “Shields.”