After a long, well-earned hibernation (last bear pun, promise), Brooklyn indie darlings Grizzly Bear have returned with Shields, their follow-up to 2009's critically acclaimed Veckatimest. The time off did the band a world of good: Shields is a powerful, complex, and emotionally satisfying album — their best yet — with each member contributing to the songwriting process more than ever. On previous albums, a smart listener could discern whether co-frontmen Ed Droste or Daniel Rossen penned a particular song (sweet melodies = Ed, jazz chords = Dan), but the music of Shields is virtually impossible to reduce down to components. And honestly, it may even be a little counter-productive to do so. While music nerds will pore over Rossen's guitar voicings, the tasteful yet occasionally explosive drumming of Chris Bear (we're not worthy!), and Shields' nuanced, noisy production (courtesy of bassist Chris Taylor), this is a record to immerse yourself in, not pick apart. From the rocky peaks ("Sleeping Ute," "Yet Again," "Half Gate") to the soft, spacious valleys (the brass coda of "What's Wrong," "Sun in Your Eyes"), Grizzly Bear has created a dynamic, gorgeous aural landscape that will take a few visits to fully explore. Pack a picnic basket (damn it, sorry) and enjoy getting lost.
★★★★ (out of 5 stars)