Albums Of 2012. 7// Grizzly Bear

Shields [Released by Warp]

Folk music seemed like an endless wave by the start of 2012. Bands such as Fleet Foxes and had created a great tremor of influence that spread the concept that mandolins and softly sung gentle harmonies weren’t a relic. Soon you couldn’t escape a radio with Mumford & Sons blaring from it. Many could see it was very much was the dominant trend to come in 2012, especially with the release of Fleet Foxes sophomore release Helplessness Blues.

But the critics had their eye on a band who had been pushing the envelope for years – Grizzly Bear. Indeed, this Brooklyn based bamd had struck the right chord when they released Veckatimist in 2009. It was breaking down whatever conventions had yet been devised for the new folk movement – Beach Boys inspired harmonies had been thrown out of the window and replaced with a new outlook on multiple vocal tracks altogether. What Vecktimist provided was earthly sounds and instruments ammounting to something astoundingly otherworldly.

However it was an incredibly hard album to wrap your head around because of this. Only a few songs retained a typical pop sensibility to ease the listener in, whilst most other songs were so different from the norm and were so unexpected it made the entire album relatively hard to swallow, compared to expectations of release song Two Weeks.

But this year Grizzly Bear returned with Shields. Shields rewrote the book all over again. Where Veckatimest was happy to allow its chords to hover and ring in the air, applying white space and rests liberally Shields implemented far more of a groove than previously. Drums picked up and sped up and the bass jumped around in a more lively fashion. And all of a sudden at this speed the odd chords, guitar twangs and textures blur into a far more understandable picture. Finally Grizzly Bear have found a way to explain newcomers to their sound, a way to open the doors and introduce people to the oddness of their collective mind. Shields embodied this, all with the same masterful flourishes that made Veckatimest such a rewarding listen in the end. Frankly fans couldn’t have hoped for a better follow-up.

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