Grizzly Bear Shields Sheilds by Grizzly Bear

Brooklyn-born, art-rock outfit Grizzly Bear—Edward Droste (vocals, guitar, omnichord, keyboards), Daniel Rossen (vocals, guitar, banjo, keyboards), Chris Taylor (bass, backing vocals, producer) and Christopher Bear (drums, backing vocals, glockenspiel)—is set to officially release their hotly-anticipated, fourth studio album Shields tomorrow (September 18) via Warp—their first LP since 2009’s, Veckatimest.

A free stream of the complete album, currently available at NPR, reveals immediate evidence of plenty of signature Grizzly Bear harmonies and unfailingly precise production. Elaborate layers adding sonic complexity to each of the album’s 10 tracks, with each communicating an entirely different tone, message, and experience. Sleeping Ute, for example, is a decidedly bluesy number; the wholly-instrumental Aldema calls forth the isolation and exploration of a space mission (abstract, yes, but you’ll hear it), while What’s Wrong evokes the image of a smoky cabaret, blending indie folk with a cool, jazz foundation.

Shields second single, Yet Again, is perhaps the record’s strongest track. The vocals, vulnerable and full, give chills. Its bass line is simple, forming a strong foundation and driving the track forward and offbeat chords bring a subtle, off-putting feel that at first feels a little much, but with multiple listen’s, I’m second guessing.

Grizzly Bear’s killer harmonies are best heard in Sun in Your Eyes, the album’s final track. The seven-minute epic winds between a soft undertone with singular and isolating vocals, to an almost-overwhelming blend of instrumental lines. The layers seem endless as this dynamic track progresses, and when you think it’s over, this hypnotizing experience has really only just begun.

This album gives us what we want in terms of art rock complexity, but even with its many standouts, I wonder if it may have benefited from a less-is-more approach. I will say this without hesitation: Shields is an imperative listen for Grizzly Bear fans and anyone looking to be properly schooled on the indie, art rock scene.

By Erin Torrance, a recent Publishing graduate venturing into the world of music. Erin lives in a flea-market chic apartment in Toronto with the love of her life and best friend — her cat Bea.

pixel Sheilds by Grizzly Bear