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Energized and Still Beautiful
on February 17, 2010
Musically, Shearwater has taken a leap forward with this album. Mostly up-tempo tracks (very unusual for the group) with dense, rhythmic instrumentation, it's obvious that the theme behind the album has charged the band full of a potent and exciting energy. As someone who's only in it for the songs, without the benefit of the enormous informative booklet sold with the CD version, I feel like I might be missing an integral part of the experience, however, as the lyrics do not quite seem up to par.
Their previous albums contain lyrics that conjure haunting images or clear stories. The song "Rooks" is a master class in doomsday lyricism, and "Leviathan, Bound", while abstract, features the powerful statement "You are racing, alone" to anchor the song. The same is true with phenomenal tunes like "Seventy-Four, Seventy-Five" and the apocalyptic images of "Red Sea, Black Sea". The Golden Archipelago, on the other hand, seems to get lost in vague phrases that almost betray the power of the music and Jonathan Meiburg's incredible voice. For example, the fury of "Corridors" is similar to that of their previous track, "Century Eyes", but without the fascinating openly interpretable but evocative lyrics featured in the latter song.
While it's possible that Meiburg et. al. got a bit lost in this island-hopping concept, the album still stands as a fantastic sonic journey from one of the most interesting bands out there right now (with, I might add, one of my personal favorite vocalists of all time -- From his manic howls to his mournful falsetto, Meiburg is vocally in top form here). I greatly look forward to a future combination of their new found orchestration and their older, more open lyrical masterpieces.