Grizzly Bear can’t sneak up on people anymore. The four-piece group from Brooklyn, N.Y., stepped to the forefront of indie rock with its fascinatingly complex third album, “Veckatimest,” in 2009. Three years later, Grizzly Bear has risen to meet astronomical expectations with a more organic sound in its latest release, “Shields.”
Dedicated Grizzly Bear fans will already be familiar with the two lead singles from “Shields” that were released over the summer. Album opener “Sleeping Ute” is a dizzying, two-part, Jekyll and Hyde composition that blends garage rock muscle with somber folk roots. The first three minutes feature a jangly southern-rock riff from lead guitarist Daniel Rossen that interplays beautifully with drum kicks and spooky synth tremors. Rossen devilishly cries out, “And I can’t help myself!” to end each chorus, illustrating his confusion with his desire to walk away from a relationship. The song then abruptly swings into an acoustic epilogue featuring Rossen’s world-class fingerpicking and his conflicted thoughts about cutting ties with the familiar.
“Yet Again” boasts refreshing notes of ’80s alternative rock that breaks away from Grizzly Bear’s standard baroque textures. While few could deny the band’s talent for creating gorgeous melodies and scintillating sonic nuances in the past, Grizzly Bear’s songs were criticized from time to time for their abstract lyricism and detached emotion. The critics should be satisfied this time around, especially with raw vocals from the band’s traditionally straight-laced frontman Ed Droste.
There are plenty of treasures to uncover beneath the lead singles on “Shields.” “A Simple Answer” dazzles with a rockabilly shuffle, an Elvis Presley impersonation by Rossen, and closers “Half Gate” and “Sun In Your Eyes” create a tantalizing finish that should inspire listeners to dive into the album all over again.
As a whole, Grizzly Bear brings a more warm-blooded humanity to “Shields” that makes the album its most accessible and most captivating release yet.
Overall rating: 4 stars
Grizzly Bear is back with its third studio album ‘Shields.’