Monday, February 20, 2012

Shearwater Finds Joy In Animals

Several years ago, Shearwater was getting so much press it was ridiculous. They were like Bon Iver before Bon Iver ever existed. They were the indie band du jour for a while and to be honest I just didn't get it. I didn't enjoy their music at all and quite honestly thought they were way, way overhyped. But as Dylan once sang, "The times they are a changin'," and gosh darn it, so are Shearwater. While they seem to have survived the hype lapped on top of them and walked away from it, the band have receded to making music that is genuinely good and un-hyped and their latest record Animal Joy is worthy of a good solid listen.

With one of the most unique voices in all of indie rock, Jonathan Meiburg inflects every word he sings with a sense of drama and oddness that allows Animal Joy's songs to stand out. Sounding like a combination between ancient Irish folk songs and sweeping indie rock the songs Meiburg and his band create are lively, melodramatic, and unusual. While this album undoubtedly has a folk undercurrent to it, the band almost has more in common with say someone like Tindersticks, than someone more hushed, and manages to manipulate that influence in a strangely alluring way. Shearwater is the anti-folk folk band.

Animal Joy is a powerful, broody, darkly tinged album whose drama and unique sound catapults it ahead of the pack. The songs here sound old and rustic and Shearwater does a fantastic job of constantly conveying that dingy patina throughout. While many of these songs do indeed rock, there's a certain level of intimacy and agedness that makes them feel as though they were recorded specifically for you. Perhaps it's Meiburg's voice or the songs arrangements, I have no, idea but their closeness makes them exceptionally powerful and gripping.

From the churning, "Insolence," to the muted drama of, "You As You Were," Animal Joy is a surprisingly enjoyable record. I really didn't think I'd like this record at all, but I'm glad I spent some time with it as I've found it to be a turbulent but enjoyable ride. Rustic by nature, tense and dramatic by sound Animal Joy is an intriguing album that's truly deserves some kind of hype.

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