Shields (2LP)

Grizzly BearSKU: WARPLP229



Shields is full of remarkably active music, starting with "Sleeping Ute," where acoustic guitars that sound more like they're being scrubbed than strummed tumble into bubbling synths, which then give way to rhythms that conjure leaves twirling in the breeze. "Speak in Rounds" may be the most rocking song they've done yet, even if it climaxes with rustling brass and flutes instead of a shredding guitar solo. As dazzling as these flourishes can be, sometimes the complexity of Shields' arrangements threatens to overshadow the actual songs, and the most direct moments are among the album's best. "Yet Again" shows once again how good Grizzly Bear are at putting their abstract leanings into their version of a pop single: the guitars ring out with inevitability, the harmonies propel the song to new heights, and everything gets gloriously noisy before it fades away. The bouncy "A Simple Answer" and sleek "Gun-Shy" follow suit, but what makes them and the rest of Shields intriguing is the tension between the music's brash dynamics, and words and feelings that often turn inward. The band's lyrics are more cryptic and coded than ever, and the snippets that listeners get, such as "Cloistered from yourself/You never even try," from "What's Wrong," are abstractions of relationships that feel like extreme close-ups or bird's-eye views.

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