In the wake of some high profile deaths in the days and hours that heralded the arrival of 2016 the cultural climate seems to have taken on a sense of nostalgia. Celebrating past success and looking to the past for inspiration seems to be a coping mechanism for many when dealing with grief. Shearwater's second full-length album since signing to Sub Pop mines a similar vein. While its conception and recording pre-dated the passing of the Thin White Duke, Shearwater's album seems to have accidentally captured the mood of the zeitgeist. The material here deliberately owes much to Bowie, Talk Talk, and Talking Heads, as songwriter Jonathan Meiburg embraces the best elements of early eighties instrumentation and production. If the death of Bowie and Shearwater's new album share a common theme, it's that nostalgia need no longer be viewed as detrimental or a dirty word in creative circles.
The album title itself puts this feeling front and centre, referring to a view Meiburg re-called while looking back from an aircraft window. However the album doesn't come across as entrenched in a re-imagined 1980's. It's ambitious, lush, and intricate, but this is grounded in some of the best material Meiburg has produced to date. The first half of the record feels like the most radical departure from what has come before; it's all synths and swelling crescendos. 'Quiet Americans' in particular owes a debt to early Depeche Mode with swathes of drum machines and electronics intertwining with the band itself, it's got a distinctly Pop tinge. The latter half of the album finds guitars taking more prominence. 'Only Child' starts in a delicate fashion before building into something glorious. If there's a moment where both approaches meet in perfect harmony it's on 'Wildlife In America', which finds a satisfying balance between the lead piano and the acoustic and electric guitars. On subsequent listens these later songs shed light on the approach taken on the opening cuts, your appreciation for the album only grows with time.
If there's something that really draws the attention throughout, it's Cully Symington's drumming. The percussion seems to have taken much inspiration from Radiohead's Phil Selway and his approach to both live and pre-programmed drums. The patterns are deceptively complicated and varied propelling Meiburg's compositions forward with urgency. That former Redd Kross drummer Brian Reitzell was also involved is not surprising with these results. His more recent soundtrack work informs the lavish soundscapes created by the combination of synths and drums, which often build to anthemic proportions
Continue reading: Shearwater - Jet Plane And Oxbow Album Review
Not content with homing one of the planets finest musical grandstands with South By Southwest; Austin, Texas is also home to some serious talent itself with Shearwater firmly placed among the city's top musical exports. Hot off the release of the bands eight venture together, February 14th's Animal Joy, Jonathan Meiburg and co. have released the impressive new video for the single 'You As You Were' through Sub Pop. Caught somewhere between Ingmar Bergman and the Gruffalo director Alix Lambert has done herself proud in creating a video that appropriately matches the raw emotion that Shearwater conjure within the song itself.
Continue: Shearwater - You As You Were
Shearwater's new single, Breaking the Yearling, is available to download and is the lead single from the band's eighth studio album, Animal Joy, which will be released in the UK on February 27th, 2012. The band will be playing five UK dates, which will take place from the end of March until the start of April 2012.
Continue: Shearwater - Breaking the Yearlings
When Shearwater was formed a decade ago by Jonathan Meiburg and Will Sheff it was done so as a retreat from the more hard-edged sound of their day job Okkervil River, and although Shearwater's debút album was actually released prior to the first Okkervil River full-length it has always been the former that, at least until the amicable split in 2008 which saw Will Sheff take charge of Okkervil River and Jonathan Meiburg Shearwater, have been referred to as 'the side project', and as such have rested in the shadow of Okkervil's ascendancy.
Continue reading: Shearwater, Animal Joy Album Review