Shields is Grizzly Bear’s fourth studio album. The album is experimental, and each song pushes the album and its themes forward. The album is perhaps the band’s most collaborative album yet, with unbelievable composition and writing. Starting off “Shields” is “Sleeping Ute,” one of the album’s two singles. Psychedelic guitars with plenty of reverb add to the song’s dreamy theme. Edward Droste sings “Dreams a long day, just wandering free, though I’m far gone, you sleep nearer to me” bringing up one of the album’s reoccurring themes, the need to feel free and independent while at the same time yearning for the transcending unity of love. The dream that “Sleeping Ute” is, concludes with a softly picked guitar that will have you floating contemplatively above pillow top clouds.
“Speaking in Rounds” again deals with conflicting forces of freedom and love asking, “Could I be alone?” The song has a galloping rhythmic guitar with harmonies similar to what we are used to from previous Grizzly Bear albums. The song builds in energy and progresses before transitioning into the experimental Pink Floyd-esque interlude Adelma.
The album’s other single “Yet Again” is a beautifully composed track. Rich guitar strokes with soft drums highlight Ed Droste’s towering tenor voice. The lyrics deal with the trials and unknowns of relationships. Just as so many relationships are so wonderful until the end, “Yet Again” ends in horrifying chaos meant to stir up the listener’s emotions.
Perhaps at the core of the album is the heartbreaking song “The Hunt.” Ed Droste melancholy sings, “I’d hide it all away, taking back all of the silly things I used to say, and I’ll give you all of my time, because I’m foolish and never know how to resign.” The lyrics and feelings expressed make no logical sense as many of us can relate to when in relationships. Obviously he is not satisfied or happy with the relationship at hand, however he remains unable to walk away.
The piano based “A Simple Answer” brightens up the mood of the album after “The Hunt” with a gleeful piano, yet it maintains the feel of the album, retaining the psychedelic and experimental sounds and themes. The track's epically composed ending builds, and will push you into the back of your mind as you close your eyes and paint your thoughts on the contemplative canvas of "Shields" next two songs “What’s Wrong,” and “Gun Shy.”
“Half Gate” is a powerful song with pleasant verses and a powerful ear-jarring chorus that contrast brilliantly in an effort to convey the albums overriding themes. Concluding “Shields” is “Sun in Your Eyes.”
As the sun sets on this beautiful album, I am left with a profound respect for the artistry that went into its production. The cohesiveness of the album, with its overriding themes evident in the lyrics and composition, is unbelievable and reminiscent of some of the best concept albums. The album takes one or two listens through to begin to fully understand its messages and themes and I plan on keeping this one in the car for morning and afternoon commutes for the next couple of weeks.