This review really isn’t going to be a fair one.
Not because of a lack of appreciation for Grizzly Bear and not because of a lack of objectivity.
This review isn’t going to be fair because a Grizzly Bear record doesn’t really find its feet amongst potential listeners until at least the seventh or eighth listen. That’s a fact. A scientific one, probably.
Another fact is that most everything the makers in the band create (side-projects inclusive) gets better with time. Kinda like wine or John Stamos.
After five and a half listens of Shields, a few things are obvious though. In both their composition and production, the Brooklynites have always been aces of subtlety, and they haven’t decided to stop now despite obvious pressures after their 2009 monster-hit Veckatimist.
Both Veckatimist and 2006’s Yellow House were strong records. Not punch-in-the-face-and-fall-to-the-ground strong (at least not on the first few listens), but rather, the kind of strength you get from being hugged by someone who matters.
This type of strength speaks volumes in ways that more audacious releases don’t.
For the impatient , album standouts ‘Yet Again’ and ‘A Simple Answer’ will provide quick musical gratification much like ‘Two Weeks’ and ‘Cheerleader’ did back in 2009.
Reaping Shields‘ greater rewards requires patience, revealing details in ways unknown to more obvious music. The way ‘Talk In Rounds’ unspools its melodic and rhythmic treasures with each subsequent spin; or how ‘Sun In Your Eyes’ transforms from an obtuse jazz odyssey to pastoral album closer.
Best listened to on vinyl with someone significant, Shields is bound to be on heavy rotation. Not just because it’s a great or important record, but because it has be in order to achieve its own worth.