A difficult album to make, Shields is worth the effort to love.
Grizzly Bear experienced that lesser-celebrated, fourth-album syndrome after their emergence into the spotlight with 2009 classic Veckatimest. They'd found a happy balance between their esoteric chamber rock and the kind of melodies that find wide audiences, but unavoidable promotional commitments left them weary and in need of a break – and the first attempt at a follow-up led to a near total dumping of the tapes.
But the Brooklyn quartet's travails have produced a gem. If anything, Shields is even more accessible than its predecessor. It's still complex and subtle – anything that explores the interplay of piped organ, subterranean woodwind and parping brass on What's Wrong, or rubs doo-wop up against screeching psychedelia on Yet Again, is never just going to wash over you – but it's here to connect, not repel.
And it manages all that with persistently strong hooks and the warm but mannered vocals of Ed Droste, an outlaw over the jerky power chords of Sleeping Ute and an unlikely pop singer through the dreamy, winding gun-shy. Shields is by turns alt.country, jazz improv and spooky baroque indie, but there's a familiar rock heart if you're prepared to put your ear to it and take time to understand it. The rewards are fulsome.