Shearwater: Animal Joy (Sub Pop)

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Shearwater: You As You Were
Shearwater: Animal Joy (Sub Pop)

Jonathan Meiburg -- the mainman in Shearwater, a member of Austin's Okkervil River and a diligent ornithologist with an interest in distant places -- doesn't want for ambition. Shearwater previously released a trilogy of albums (or “triptych” as Sub Pop had it) about the effect of the changing global environment and Mankind on the planet, and specifically on remote islands.

(Or something like that, I never quite got it).

And this dramatically charged collection seems to use the animal kingdom and our own animal nature as metaphors while Meiburg delivers his intense and sometimes obfuscated lyrics with the passion of Peter Gabriel and Talk Talk as he heroically soars over brittle guitars, dense and driving rhythms and arrangements of orchestral breadth.

This much emotional and lyrical intensity (he has a master's degree in geography), not to mention the high pitch of his impressive lung-power, can be demanding.

But at the midpoint they throw in Immaculate which is sort of driving New Wave-meets-REM, and later there is respite in the broody ballad Run the Banner Down.

Not easy, but even as it pins you to a wall or sometimes makes your heart rise up with it, this beautifully crafted, superbly realised and melodic music is often impressive, and a bit prog.

You do wonder though if the lyric sheet shouldn't have come with footnotes, in-text referencing and a bibliography.

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