ALBUM REVIEW: Shields: B-Sides
Artist: Grizzly Bear
Last September found Grizzly Bear operating on all cylinders, with the release of Shields and the beginning of lengthy tour to match one of the most-lauded records of the year.
Although 2013 has seen them triumphantly close out that 105-date tour and retreat to their own separate corners of the U.S. for a well-deserved rest, Edward Droste, Dan Rossen, Chris Taylor, and Chris Bear don’t seem to be taking their foot off the gas pedal anytime soon.
Culling together recordings from their supposedly unproductive excursion to Marfa, Texas, as well as other studio sessions, the quartet released Shields: B-Sides on Nov 12. through Warp Records. The British label is giving fans the option of either purchasing a 2-disc “expanded” edition of Shields, or a 180-gram heavyweight vinyl pressing of Shields: B-Sides that will satisfy any purist.
After picking up the vinyl from Dr. Disc last week, I hurriedly rushed home to give it a spin and was not disappointed.
Running a cool six minutes, “Smothering Green” is a lengthy intro, but one that doesn’t leave the listener in any danger of falling asleep. Rossen’s vocals are soothing only until given a second listen. He chillingly gives a voice to the doubts that plague one’s mind once the glossy veneer of a new relationship has worn off, “We lie awake and think all that we loved and learned just vanished in our sleep,” while extending an ominous warning, “Clear out your mind, and I’ll clear out mine,” to a stormy backdrop of clashing guitars and Droste’s autoharp.
“Taken Down” is billed as a Marfa Demo and evidence of the high standards the band holds itself to if it didn’t make the final cut. Droste turns in an impeccable display of vocal acrobatics that’s so good it hurts (your heart, that is).
“Listen & Wait” is a slow-burner that could very well have been the precursor to ‘Sun In Your Eyes,’ with Bear’s drumming mirroring thunderclaps in a sonic landscape laden with intricate details.
“Will Calls”, another demo from the Marfa sessions, is the clear standout and an example of Grizzly Bear at their cathartic best. It’s a white-knuckle ride throughout the entire six minutes and fifty-one seconds that’ll have you gasping for breathe once it’s over.
The three remixes available through the digital download are largely forgettable, aside from Nicolas Jaar’s creepily sparse reinterpretation of “Sleeping Ute”. While obviously not up to the band’s lofty standards, B-Sides will tide fans over until the next release.