Three years in the making, the fourth studio album from indie rock royalty Grizzly Bear was put together after a six month hiatus, which had the band members coming in with fresh eyes, and a feeling of starting over. Recording began in Marfa, Texas, a place known for its arts collective and good vibe, in June of last year. With Chris Taylor producing, a lot of material was put down but only two tracks ending up making the cut onto the completed album, ‘Yet Again’ and ‘Sleeping Ute’. The majority of the songs were recorded in a house on Cape Cod where Grizzly Bear’s second album, Yellow House was assembled in 2006. This place belongs to Ed Droste’s grandmother, and he has said that some of their best tracks came as the guys “sat by the fire, Dan strumming, me singing and it happened”.

Over all Shields has a sound that is clearer and louder, what Droste has described as more “in your face” than their previous work. Daniel Rosson (lead / backing vocals, multi-instrumentalist) has said of Taylor’s producing “Part of his strength is that he pushes us, he enables us to try stranger stuff, he pushes us to that side of ourselves.. he is always thinking of the whole palette, whereas Ed and I might be more worried about a melody or a lyric”. However you look at it, Shields is one hell of a brilliant and emotionally charged album, showcasing GB’s experience, skill and knack for hitting the right note, that right feeling, every time.

‘Sleeping Ute’ begins the LP with a strum of guitar, and the stilted progression that distinctly marks their sound before a note is even sung. The time signature is all over the shop, making the track feel like a bad night’s sleep, as it thrashes about trying to find a footing. Then it all calms down… “if I could find peace / If I could lie still / but I can’t help myself” to finish resolved and refreshed. At this moment you realise the next nine songs are going to be a treat. ‘Speak In Rounds’ has an emphasis on the vocals in its intro, with various layers entering the mix as it builds up to an inspired ending, you can just imagine how damn good it would be live. Droste leads ‘Yet Again’ in what is an absolute highlight of the LP, and a highlight of the year in indie musc. “Take it all in stride / speak / don’t confide” he sings in the chorus, so catchy it will follow you around all day. His voice is yearning and raw, the harmonies utterly beautiful

‘The Hunt’ has plenty of texture and showcases how incredible and diverse Droste’s voice can be. It is full of restraint, and twangy guitar, another example of the beauty that can be found in Grizzly Bear; “And I’ll leave it all as it should be / where are you / and I stay me”, it’s gold. ‘What’s Wrong’ saunters along, has beautiful strings, those vocals harmonies the band does so well, magical woodwind sections full of texture and light. The percussion of this track is jazzy, with the whole thing coming together majestically.

It’s an interesting scene to imagine one of the best indie bands to come out of the music Mecca of Brooklyn, holed up in a grandmother’s house getting this amazing and intimate album together. Though, it does fit in with the indie way. These are bands with massive followings, making inspired music, who a lot of the time cannot afford health insurance. She is one lucky granny to have witnessed the birth of such a great album, by such a well formed and experienced collective as Grizzly Bear. Times today are turbulent but the future is all the brighter for having bands like this around.

Dave Roberts – November 9, 2012


Yet Again

Grizzly Bear (USA)
From the album, ‘Shields’, Warp

Soundcheck for live on Greene Space


Sleeping Ute

Grizzly Bear (USA)
From the album, ‘Shields’, Warp