When the members of Grizzly Bear describe their new album as rawer than its predecessors -- a position they've advanced several times in recent months -- it's important to take the message with a grain of small-batch sea salt.
Sure, "Shields" feels a bit loose compared to 2009's ultra-tidy "Veckatimest," which elevated the Brooklyn-based foursome to the indie-rock A-list (and scored Grizzly Bear a lucrative Volkswagen spot). Newly fuzzy guitars dominate tunes such as "Sleeping Ute" and "Yet Again," while the voices of singers Edward Droste and Daniel Rossen put across deeper, more recognizably human emotions.
"I live to see your face," Rossen moans with credible desperation in "Sleeping Ute." "And I hate to see you go." (Hear the song below.)
Yet Grizzly Bear, which wraps up a U.S. tour at the Greek Theatre on Wednesday night, is still making what might be the most fussed-over records in the artisanal indie-pop scene it inhabits along with Animal Collective and Dirty Projectors. "Shields" refracts messy real-world experience through a prism of meticulous recording studio know-how.
The result can be effective, as in "What's Wrong," which borrows the sustained harmonies and uncertain bounce of the Beach Boys circa "Smiley Smile." Here you get the sense of a guy trying his best to manage an unmanageable situation -- "Everything all at once," the members croon, anxiously layering their voices atop one another.
But it can be stifling too: Elsewhere on "Shields," Grizzly Bear's endless tinkering drains the music of life. Perhaps the band will find a way to reclaim it at the Greek.