Over the past eight years, Brooklyn-based, art rock ensemble Grizzly Bear (@grizzlybear) have been steadily building a rewarding reputation within the music industry. Their last outing, 2009′s Veckatimest, saw them deliver their most accesible and critically acclaimed record to date. Three years later, album number four, Shields, looks to increase the band’s stock yet again.
Although Shields does tap into the hearty musicality and warm melodic sense Grizzly Bear has showcased in the past, it’s a record that moves aside the band’s more dreamy and pastelle demeanour. Sure, they retain a healthy level of rustic goodness, but this record presents a side that’s a little bolder and abrasive. The guitars are sharper, the drums are crunchier and, although Grizzly Bear aren’t quite crotch thrusting their way into your ear, there’s a definitive air of confidence on display. The album may not be as graceful or beautifully delicate as past outings, but perhaps what Shields lacks in gentile, vulnerability, it more than makes up for in passion and ambition.
This is quite easily the band’s biggest sounding record. When I say big, though, I dont mean stadium big — they havent turned into THAT band. Still, this is an undeniably more robust group, not just musically, but lyrically. The songs that occupy the album feel more fleshed out, more considered and much more lyrical. Add that particular development to Grizzly Bear’s already well established sense of melody and harmony, and you have the seeds of evolution sprouting before you very ears.
It will be interesting to see how longstanding fans will welcome the band’s wider horizons. Some may pine for the days when their music cradled them softly, while others may prefer this more driven approach. Either way you slice it, there’s no shaking the fact that Grizzly Bear will continue to be a band that people will talk about. When you have both a group and an album of this quality, it should come as no surprise.