Grizzly Bear – Shields: B-Sides
This collection should come with a health warning to aspiring artists. Beware: This Is What Grizzly Bear Can Leave Off Their Albums. There are at least two tracks here that would not grace not just any normal record, but that might still end up being on many people’s end-of-the-year best-song list. The first is Daniel Rossen’s ‘Smothering Green’. It’s both utterly beautiful and fantastically hummable. Arranged in five acts, the first three increase the tension incrementally, the fourth releases it, and the fifth provides a wonderfully liquid ending. It’s a fully realised track that perhaps should have been included on Shields. If it had replaced ‘A Simple Answer’ with its almost unrelenting and distinctly un-Grizzly Bear-ish drums, it would have made a lovely centrepiece to the record. But it was discarded. The second is ‘Taken Down’, one of the three demos from the Marfa sessions. This is a classic Ed Droste song. The verse/chorus just goes straight into your head and won’t come out. For a song that could have become another ‘Two Weeks’ or ‘Yet Again’, it’s amazing that it was omitted. Perhaps it was psychological. The Marfa sessions in Texas were traumatic. Seemingly, none of the tracks recorded there found their way on to Shields. Maybe ‘Taken Down’ was consciously or sub-consciously repressed so that the band could make a clean start. Whatever the reason, it’s good that it’s now out in the open. What does let this collection down are the remixes. They’re an acquired taste anyway. But, here, they’re unusually uninteresting. ‘Sleeping Ute’ becomes so laid back that it’s best to think of it as ‘Sleeping Yurt (the Parks and Recreation Remix)’. As for the ‘Gun-Shy (Goes to The Disco Remix)’, the less said the better. What they do demonstrate, though, is that Grizzly Bear are at their best when they’re in control of their own sound. We have to accept this includes the right to leave off some truly great songs from their albums. But at least we can be pretty sure that at some stage we’ll get to hear them. Shields: B-Sides is proof.