Grizzly Bear is an experimental, indie rock band known for producing outlandish music. This gap of accessibility is bridged by the band’s ability to either infuse their sound with catchy pop beats or introduce a number of instrumental textures to create interesting music. “Shields” favors the latter, presenting music that requires close listening.
“Sleeping Ute” opens the album with aggressive, classic rock riff and clanging percussion. This loud instrumental quickly fades to soft fingerstyle guitar to introduce lead singer Daniel Rossen’s vocals and then returns after each sung lyric. In effect, each lyric is isolated and further intensified by this instrumental break. Despite the dominance of the hard instrumental breaks, the song resolves with sparse Spanish guitar melodies and stripped vocals.
“Speak in Rounds,” this writer’s admitted favorite, offers a more accessible sound to its listeners. It holds a rhythmic core with percussive strumming guitar and use of repetition in the lyrics: “If I draw you upside down I can’t let go / if I speak in rounds for a while letting my tongue swell.” Ed Droste, lending the other lead vocals to the band, sings these lyrics with much more basal strength and emotion, clarifying the existence of a specific subject to his words. The climax of the song is in the chorus, where it is like a cathartic release that resolves the uncertainty of the prior verses with assertive new insight. The lyrics “Come get what’s lost, what’s left before it’s gone” is paired with airy synths and followed by heralding trumpets.
Other notable tracks include “The Hunt,” which gives the impression of intending to sound less produced. Droste becomes reminiscent of Thom Yorke’s deeply emotive and ethereal voice, his vocals completely stripped and serving as the focal point of the song. “Gun-Shy” is a smooth track where all elements seek only to complement each other. Percussive elements including shakers and bells as well as flirting blues guitar create a cool ambience.
“Sun in Your Eyes” closes the album with ease. It’s a simple yet solemn song, primarily consisting of dignified piano instrumental and the dynamic lead vocals of both Rossen and Droste. The song culminates to reflect the title — brimming with light and positivity as the piano shifts to an electronic tone and vocal harmonies take full-force.
Collectively, “Shields” encompasses an artistic sound of experimental indie rock with pop undertones. It appears as if Grizzly Bear is settling into a creative niche of constant experimentation.