Grizzly Bear – Shields
Delicate beauty and refined presentation still rule on the Brooklyn mainstay’s fourth album, Shields, but the balance is subtly shifting. On 2009’s Veckatimest, and especially on signature single “Two Weeks,” the band made an important transition: from sketches to songs, from impressionism to realism, from ghosts to creatures. On Shields, the creatures are back, this time with teeth.
Dinosaur Jr. – I Bet on Sky
With 2007′s Beyond, Dinosaur Jr. delivered a fresh-sounding record of original material that not only avoided re-covering past accomplishments but was also considered by many to be a logical follow-up to Bug, Dinosaur Jr.’s final album with Barlow. 2009′s Farm laid to rest any doubts that Beyond was a fluke and further cemented the idea that perhaps it is possible for a band to have more than one life. With I Bet on Sky, the group has nothing more to prove to themselves or their audience, which allows them to avoid worrying about whether or not the songs could be played live (as on Beyond and Farm) and instead lets Mascis do “what [he] felt would sound good.”
Band of Horses – Mirage Rock
Mirage Rock is a little rougher around the edges, a little less pristine than the band’s recent stuff, cutting out the piles of overdubs and miles of reverb that kept the still-beautiful Infinite Arms from having an immediate, visceral impact. You can feel that primal, first-take energy in Bridwell’s strained harmonies on “Everything’s Gonna Be Undone” or in the pummeling, bled-together drive of the anthemic rocker “Feud.”