When: Sun., Sept. 30, 7:30 p.m. 2012
Grizzly Bear's music has always been a bit of a Frankenstein's monster, structurally speaking—at any moment there might be a sudden turn into a mood-shifting bridge, an unexpected harmony, or a jarring tempo shift—but for the excellent new Shields (Warp) they've made that kind of piecemeal construction integral to their creative process. Rather than work with songs written independently by one member or another (as they have for previous albums), they wrote all ten tunes as a group, a bit at a time. The sort of ethereal passages that leavened the abstruse parts of 2009's Veckatimest are mostly gone, and so are some of the heavenly vocal harmonies, but despite the contrasts within each tune—clean strummed guitar up against underwater noise, moments of repose exploding into tightly controlled frenzies—the overall impression is more coherent and forceful than ever. The lyrics similarly make something unified out of the feeling of loneliness and the desire to be alone, ruminating on frayed relationships and struggling to figure out if they're worth saving. The beautiful "Yet Again" weds an upbeat, even celebratory melody to words that seem to be about throwing in the towel ("Take it all in stride / Speak don't confide / We barely had a case / It's done before we try"), evoking not defeated numbness but rather a palpable sense of relief. After my first couple listens to Shields, it seemed to me that Grizzly Bear had stripped down, but as I've spent more time with the album, it's become clear that their music has never contained more detail—none of it superfluous. In a September 16 New York Times profile, they seemed unsure of their future—I hope they don't call it a day after this record, but if they do, they're going out at the top of their game. —Peter Margasak Lower Dens open.