Taking time following their highly acclaimed (should we say ‘breakthrough’) record Veckatimest to, as Ed Droste puts it, to “let people develop on their own”, Shields is definitely the sound of a band revived with inspiration but also focused on structures. Grizzly Bear have always shared a sense of wilderness in their music, but this time it comes with much more ambition: tracks are puzzles to be assembled and torn apart under your ears. On ‘Yet Again’, it’s a jazzy piano with a groovy rhythmic section morphing into a pop chorus joined by groaning horns, while ‘A Simple Answer’ tricks you with an epic but weird keyboard melody underlined by stomping drums and dreamlike back vocals. At four minutes in, it all fades out and slows down as if you have entered an unknown place, as intriguing as it is strange. Which is the Grizzly Bear experience in a nutshell.
If you’re looking for highlights on this musical trip, the first would certainly be ‘What’s Wrong’: a calm and beautifully crafted experimental song with a dark bass line, delicate but threatening drums, ending with a wandering piano surrounded by wailing violins and gloomy horns. On the other side of the spectrum, ‘Sun In Your Eyes’ shows the band at its most uplifting, melancholic yet hopeful. The abstract lyrics tell about the weariness of a man who goes on a path though he knows he will never see the end of it, a reminder of the saying: “It’s not the destination the important, it’s the journey”. Shields is all about journeys and discovery, taking the listener on a treasure hunt in Grizzly Bear’s intricate and this time totally rewarding compositions.