Grizzly Bear – Shields
A Grizzly Bear album is always full of drama. The sudden twists and turns. The noises off. As new dramas go, the new Grizzly Bear album is a triumph. The first track, ‘Sleeping Ute’ (or should that be ‘Sleeping Oot’, the Scottish song), begins with a lovely series of arpeggios, each one building on the last. In classic Grizzly Bear style it reaches a crescendo and then ends calmly. The second song, ‘Speak in Rounds’ starts slowly, but soon picks up pace, and then bursts fully into life. ‘Yet Again’ is built around a wonderfully hummable chorus, but the song is packed full of drama. The only songs that slightly disappoint are ‘The Hunt’, which sounds like Grizzly Bear circa 2005 and which, now, doesn’t quite suit them, and ‘A Simple Answer’, which begins with four minutes of pounding drums. At the end, when the drumming stops and the song calms down it generates more a sense of relief than the usual feeling of Grizzly Bear transcendence. One of the reasons why the album feels so full is that it’s clearly a collective effort. On more than one occasion what seems like Daniel Rossen song is finished and changed by Ed Droste. And, whatever about the drumming on ‘A Simple Answer’, Christopher Bear (no relation) and Chris Taylor are completely indispensable to the sound. On their last album, Veckatimest, there was a nagging feeling that Grizzly Bear were showing off. It was a little overacted. Shields is hardly underplayed, but it doesn’t feel quite so overwrought. This is the work of a set of great musicians at the peak of their creativity. Author! Author!