In hindsight, 2012 was the twilight of the aughts blog site-rock growth. A new crop of rap and R&B acts like Kendrick Lamar, Frank Ocean, A$AP Rocky, and the Weeknd — to say nothing of recognized superstars like Kanye West and Drake — was mesmerizing the audience that usually lapped up new indie rock bands. A rising wave of poptimism, the perception that all songs deserved a fair shot and that quite a few longstanding essential biases are rooted in several varieties of prejudice, was resulting in a lot of self-professed snobs to cozy up to Taylor Swift, Lady Gaga, and artists far fewer considerable than those people. In the very same spirit (or in the hopes of catching a massive split), fairly a couple underground musicians had been making an attempt to perform these additional historically mainstream appears into their possess new music. Spotify and their algorithmic ilk had been shifting consumers’ emphasis from buying to streaming, both equally destabilizing an now precarious economic circumstance for unbiased musicians and supplanting the songs discovery role of web sites like this a single — which have been already beginning to die off (partially many thanks to behemoth corporations consolidating the on the internet advertisement market) and were being ever more concentrating on the aforementioned pop stars.
If any person recognized how fragile the entire ecosystem had turn out to be, it was Grizzly Bear. The Brooklyn band’s baroque blend of psychedelic rock, pop, and folk had created them indie A-listers in the latter 50 % of the 2000s, culminating in the crossover accomplishment of 2009’s Veckatimest and its uncharacteristically vibrant and immediate breakout solitary, the piano-plinking “Two Months.” At the turn of the 10 years, Grizzly Bear appreciated the spoils of that good results, but not that numerous spoils. In the months main up to their Veckatimest comply with-up, the band mentioned their money circumstance in an admirably transparent New York journal profile strewn with pullquotes like “Bands appear so substantially bigger than they definitely are now, simply because no one’s purchasing information.” Apparently Jay-Z and Beyoncé attending just one of your shows does not shell out the expenditures, and in the extended phrase, neither does licensing your song for a industrial. But if Grizzly Bear have been approaching the finish of their glory yrs, they produced the most of the highlight whilst they experienced it.
Shields, released 10 decades back this Sunday, is much from a Centipede Hz-type freak-scene retrenchment, but it’s also not the sort of album you launch when you are trying to elbow your way on to the radio. “Most of that record is, like, quite pointedly striving to do the opposite of that,” guitarist and co-frontman Daniel Rossen informed me before this calendar year. Rossen noted how considerably the buzz bordering Grizzly Bear had motivated the study course of the band, intensifying the inside tug of war amongst the perceived expectation to go pop and the latent need to continue to keep composing dense, proggy materials that compensated very little brain to notions of mainstream accessibility. “That was yet another bigger discussion that we were being obtaining,” Rossen ongoing. “But I assume it felt like sort of a triumph at the time to do that, to thrust to make a more complicated, odd document at that minute.”
It seriously was a triumph. Shields remains my beloved Grizzly Bear album, in element because of how typically it tends to make individuals knotty passages and heady textures experience like rock ‘n’ roll. The whipping, snaking riffs on Rossen-led opener “Sleeping Ute” are pure Led Zeppelin. “Speak In Rounds” — with its really hard-charging acoustic backbone, spiky however holographic guide guitar, and shock brass finale — hits like former tour-mates Radiohead circa In Rainbows. Droste’s blustery “Yet Again” attributes extra six-string heroics and further phenomenal work from rhythm section Chris Bear and Chris Taylor, plus vocal harmonies that morph from Beach front Boys reverie to something much more booming and momentous a la Brooklyn friends Yeasayer. It’s the catchiest and most speedy track on the album, albeit a person that ends in an explosion of guitar sound.
By that level, we’re nearing the midway mark, and Shields is not sounding like the anti-commercial self-sabotage situation implied by Rossen. Regardless of the conspicuous deficiency of a pandering “Two Weeks” sequel, individuals initial number of music strike me as some of the most partaking and approachable operate in Grizzly Bear’s catalog the new music only thumbs its nose at the mainstream in the perception that it facilities on a tangle of guitars at a time when sparkling synths and other this kind of pop dalliances were being on the rise. Ok, so it also sees Droste and Rossen spurning very easily digestible lyrics and clear-cut beats in favor of open-finished poetry, off-kilter rhythms, and unconventional time signatures. Still Shields weaves in those abstract concepts and advanced appears so skillfully that they by no means undermine the terrific songwriting at the heart of the album.
As we shift toward the heart of the tracklist, Shields will get a bit quieter and weirder, and Rossen’s sense that the band was pushing back again in opposition to crossover expectations helps make a bit extra sense. But even then, roomy downbeat tracks like the piano sluggish-creep “The Hunt” and the jazzy “What’s Wrong” are interspersed by songs with a skip in their phase. “A Uncomplicated Answer” rides a galloping groove some thing like the rhythm Haim (just the form of band that was ascending in the early 2010s) would before long borrow from the Eagles for “The Wire.” The misty “Gun-Shy” is the rare Grizzly Bear music you can shake your hips to. None of these songs leap out at you like, say, Passion Pit, but they are not specifically performing extra time to scare off fewer subtle listeners. Set merely, they audio like Grizzly Bear currently being their greatest selves, regardless of how that might perform with concentrate groups.
In the finish, Shields sides with art above pop on a pair of epics that shut out the album in breathtaking vogue. “Half Gate,” one particular of quite a few tunes to attribute direct vocals from each Droste and Rossen, begins on an stylish orchestral notice and proceeds to swallow up the band with pounding tumult. These kinds of lovely clatter would have created a fantastic finale if not for Rossen’s seven-minute stunner “Sun In Your Eyes,” the audio of chamber-pop gone nuclear. It’s a music that helps make use of Grizzly Bear’s whole arsenal, alternating amongst periods of sleek in close proximity to-silence and apocalyptic splendor. Amidst a ultimate movement that appears like a war zone pilloried by bass bombs, Rossen lets free a farewell befitting all that grandiosity: “So shiny, so extended/ I’m never coming back.”
That wasn’t fully accurate exactly where Grizzly Bear have been anxious, but in spirit it rang true. The band took 5 decades to adhere to up Shields with Painted Ruins, a sturdy album that may possibly have obtained a far more rapturous reception if launched at a unique point in the band’s arc. By 2017, the zeitgeist experienced completely moved on, and the associates of Grizzly Bear were getting old into a stage of everyday living when several folks like to settle down. It is telling that, a ten years on from all that nervousness about the band’s fiscal potential, the band has opted for an extended hiatus somewhat than grinding out a living on the highway in the publish-hoopla afterglow. If and when they return someday, be it with new music or just to enjoy a couple exhibits, they ought to have to be celebrated as a single of the greatest, most intriguing bands of their period. Until eventually then, we can remember Shields as the masterpiece they snuck in just ahead of the clock ran out on their 15 minutes.