Jun 24, 2008

Rook-Shearwater

This is Shearwater's moment. In this album, "Rook", they have definitely created their finest piece of music. An elegant, refined, considered piece of music. An album of a determined inner strength and a glowing beauty. Subtle and yet also exhuming a latent power. It is an album that is sure to grow in strength as time goes by. It features poetic lyrics and exquisite musicianship, a strong and mature effort from a perhaps under rated band.

I will admit that I came to the music of Shearwater due to their connection with Okkervil River. Of course, until recently Will Sheff was a member of both bands, as was Shearwater's singer and songwriter Jonathan Meiburg. Now, in the year 2008, it is totally Meiburg's band and he is really hitting his stride. It is pointless to compare him to Sheff. For one thing, few singers or songwriters match up at all well with the great Sheff. Secondly, whilst Okkervil River write music that is deeply emotional and forceful, with the sweat and blood dripping from the CD, Shearwater's music is more orchestral and refined. It is powerful, but it is a quiet and elegant power. Their only drawback to me is the high pitched voice of Meiburg, a voice that doesn't connect with me fully. But I will return to that topic.

"Rook" was produced by the band and they have done a fine job. "On The Death of The Waters" is a quietly beautiful opener. Its hushed tones starting with a spare piano, before it crashes and flails wildly. Then comes "Rooks", which begins with a delicious guitar line and grows with intensity through out. It is a dark tale of death and destruction, sung with force and conviction. And this is how I prefer Meiburg. I find his voice a little grating when he goes into falsetto mode, much preferring when he sings strongly and deeply. This is perhaps a personal preference, but its really the only weakness that emanates from this album. "Leviathan, Bound" is a good example. It's a wonderful song, featuring glorious strings, but it really peaks when Meiburg belts out the refrain of "Still is racing" with great effect. This song is about the death throes of a hunted beast and continues the themes of the album. Tales of nature and the glorious animals of the earth. Birds and leopards. Oxen and horses. Tigers and horses and the blood that races through them. All told with a lyrical sensibility that is quite often stunning. "Home Life" is perhaps the centre piece. At over seven minutes, the longest song on the album, it is a lush and multi layered song, one that soars quite gracefully. My favourite song though is "Century Eyes", a forceful and powerful number. Short and to the point, it rocks and rolls with ease as Meiburg screams "Turn It Off". There is plenty to keep you interested through to the end. "I Was A Cloud" is haunting and quite lush, whilst "South Col" is an eerie and effective interlude. "The Hunter's Star" closes things nicely, featuring sumptuous piano and gentle strings. This album is a considered triumph, it is intelligent and mature music. The combination of worldly lyrics and divine music make "Rook" a must listen. If you become a fan of Meiburg's voice, then this album will be one you treasure.

Rook lyrics
MP3: Leviathan, Bound-Shearwater

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