Scott Creney

Grizzly Bear – Shields (Warp)

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By Scott Creney

You have to respect their inventiveness, the linearity of their curves.

Sadly, Shields is not a concept album about the haggard leader of My Bloody Valentine. I think the title is meant to be profound, but like a lot of things on this album, it doesn’t make its meaning in bold statements. Instead, Grizzly Bear creates a weird sort of ‘depth by omission’. If there’s nothing shallow, then it must be profound. If there’s nothing stupid, then it must be intelligent. It all adds up to an album that’s easy to respect, and in places even to admire. But if you’re looking for fun, or joy, or rage, or blood, you’re not going to find it.

Like contemporary poetry, Grizzly Bear prefers to discuss its emotions in a sensible, polite manner rather than actually embody them. Any anger, any desperation, is view through the calming prism of hindsight. They are always in control, always behaving, always nice boys.

Clean and precise, like a digital clock. It takes years to be able to play music this well. This may or may not be a good thing, depending on your perspective.

You have to admire its cleverness, interesting arrangements and lyrics that are personal, yet non-specific. It’s ideal for helping you get through minor tragedies. If a parent recently committed suicide you may find the album insufferable. But if you’re a sophomore at NYU with a super-hard midterm coming up, Grizzly Bear might work better than an adderall-fueled all-nighter. The album is filled with a fistful sadness ideal for undergraduates watching leaves collect and wilt in the rain. Slavoj Žižek in one hand, jerk off with the other, and see which one fills up first.

This is sounding crueler than I intend it to. I understand people need their comforts. They are damaged and afraid. Who am I to attack that? Then those people will only need more soothing, and more Grizzly Bears. Let’s listen to the excellently Death Cab-esque first single.

Coldplay would shave their stubble to come up with a song this good. Eno’s totally holding back on them and they don’t even know it. It’s unbelievably pretty — a weak word that suits the weak words, the mushy vagueness of the lyrics. Their odd meters suggest Grizzly Bear are excellent at fractions, but it seems they enjoyed their math classes a great deal more than English class. The album cover may feature a spade and a club, but Grizzly Bear lyrics are pretty much all diamonds and hearts.

But man, that last minute of sound pretty much redeems the song on every level.

Shields is a city album. It functions as a nice urban version of Fleet Foxes — a sound born out of concrete rather than forests, glass instead of rivers, subways instead of trails.

You have to admire their relentless lack of specificity, their lack of melodrama, the pleasant keyboard sounds, these adventurous compositions, the rich layering of sound.

How’s the new Grizzly Bear album?
It has a rich layering of sound.
Awesome! I fucking LOVE rich layerings of sound!

Look, I’m not nearly sad or narcoticized enough to in love this album. But if you’re the kind of person predisposed to like this album, then I can say with 100% confidence that you will most likely probably like this album for at least a couple of weeks. Winter’s right around the corner. Grab a blanket and make yourself a nice cup of tea. Pick up a book by that nice Jonathan Franzen, and put on some Grizzly Bear. See, it’s the little things that make life special, life’s quiet little moments. It’s almost as good as being asleep, and sleeping is everyone’s favorite time of the day. It’s the next best thing to not being alive. Don’t worry, it will soon be over. Let Grizzly Bear be your opiate of the massive.

At the very least, you have to admire their intelligence.

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