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13
4.2 out of 5 stars
Rook
Format: Audio CDChange
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20 of 20 people found the following review helpful
on June 3, 2008
The folks in Shearwater continue to play by their own rules, with songs that inhabit evocative, complex arrangements--painfully beautiful, haunting even. Jonathan Meiburg's words have the same sense of deepening mystery that the band crafts so elegantly into their music, and his singing is stunning, swelling from a gentle falsetto into a resonant shout in a flash.

Although the lineup includes familiar instruments like the hammer dulcimer and the banjo, this band breaks beyond the confines of "roots music"--here, old sounds create something entirely new, using traditional music in novel and unexpected ways. There's a feeling of alchemy to it. The music grows and changes as you listen, like a shifting image, a kaleidscope. It strongly recalls Talk Talk and Mark Hollis, as well as Thomas Newman's film scores.

I had the opportunity to see Shearwater perform ROOK live in its entirety last month, and there was awe in the audience at all the talent up there--the members of this band are brilliant instrumentalists, and Meiburg is a truly riveting performer. I was thrilled to find that same energy captured so effectively on this CD. It's a treasure.

This is hands-down one of the albums of 2008. There's simply nothing else out there like it. If you have not explored Shearwater yet, get started. You'll be richly rewarded.
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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
on December 24, 2010
The piano is a defenseless instrument. You can't carry it with you from your home. No one plays it in the subway tunnels for money. There was never a man who has run and danced while playing it. The very nature of the piano is to sit yourself up against a wall with your back to the room, leaving yourself exposed and fragile. And the sounds that echo from it are just as vulnerable. Trembling strings hidden in the box cry out with the collapsing keys, like children in their beds during a thunder storm. Shearwater understands the fantastic creatures that live in the heart of a piano, and they gently coax them out into the light for Rook. The melodies they play are wonderful, magical, and beautiful with a sinister undercurrent. The songs rock you to sleep and then wake you up just as some beast tries to drag you off into darkness. The songs sail off into a deep purple sunset, and then vanish into dense fog and a full moon. And it does all of it while slowly winding piano strings around your wrists and ankles. It's so gentle that you will hardly realize you are bound until the end comes and you find yourself hidden deep inside Meiburg's piano.
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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
on April 24, 2010
What I love most about Shearwater is that the music is sincere, deeply felt, and serious--I for one am completely over the ironic urban hipster motif that has dominated the indie scene for too long. This was the first cd I listened to of theirs, and I played it over and over, each time transported to the world it created. It truly is an album and deserves to be played in its entirety, not just a collection of singles. I've heard Shearwater referred to as prog folk, and this seems as apt as any genre assignment I've heard.

For me, Leviathan, Bound is one of the most haunting and eerily beautiful songs ever written or sung, but Snow Leopard, Home Life, and Rooks also stand out. There's not a bad song on this. If you want to rock out, or you prefer lyrics of the sardonic and detached variety, then probably Shearwater isn't for you. If you hate falsetto or find it tiresome, you'll no doubt find too much of it on Rook. Otherwise, you should give Rook a try. You might find yourself captivated, as I have.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
on February 19, 2010
Isn't it a pleasure to find oneself mesmerized by an album? Shearwater's beautiful and masterful disc, "Rook," has soul. It's a 2008 release, but the record is one of my top picks of 2009-better late than never! Anyway, this art-rock album is rich with musical dichotomies, at once quiet, but cloaked with a buoyant passion. I've hardly heard anything like it. Honestly, how many albums have you seen endorsed by Scientific American?! The primary composer and vocalist, Jonathan Meiburg, happens to be an ornithologist, and you may recognize the natural world in his musical reflections. Meiburg's haunting falsetto is at times reminiscent of Tim Buckley, Thom Yorke and Nina Simone, but Shearwater is a unique bird. One of the stellar journeys on the album, "The Snow Leopard, " unfolds from plaintive piano melodies performed by Meiburg, accompanied by rhythm guitar, cello, a bit of brass, and rocked by a minimalist, kick-heavy power drummer. Check it out.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
on June 5, 2011
I am not reviewing the album itself, as it's a 4/5 star for the content - I'm just reviewing the vinyl release, as those a few and far between on Amazon. I've owned the CD for a long time, and just recently gotten the vinyl.

First off, you get one additional track on the vinyl, although it's not immediately noticeable - I won't spoil it for you, but suffice it to say that it's there. It's one LP, but has a digital download code for MP3, if you'd like to use it.

As for the actual sonics, the CD is digitally clipped and is very noticeable in a tool like Audacity. When looking at the waveform, you can actually see where the sound is clipped off. However, whether or not the vinyl has the same issues is hard to say - the waveform LOOKS different, but it could just as easily have come from a digitally clipped source to begin with and the analog transfer is just hiding it.

I used "Century Eyes" as a good A/B test as it's fairly loud versus some of the other tracks. I ran the A/B test back and forth on two different players, and I honestly could not tell a difference - maybe the vinyl's "high" were slightly better, but that's about it. If there really is a sonic difference, my ears are not picking it up, at least not yet.

So, if you're looking for different sonics in the vinyl, I don't think you'll see a major difference with it versus the CD - but you do get one extra track and the nice vinyl packaging.

EDIT: Found a great tool for analyzing dynamic range called "Dynamic Range Meter". Ran it against my needle drop, and got an overall DR score of "11" (that's not too bad).
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3 of 4 people found the following review helpful
on December 29, 2008
I was traveling through Indochine - doing nothing - nothing much at all when I chanced across a music store and found this CD on their racks.
Being outta touch and outta place I was not expecting to find such a treasure - so recent and all - so far away from home.
So I forked out the necessary and took my foundling home - delighted.
Now I was WOW'd by Shearwater when I first discovered them some time back and over the years they have become a regular listen for me.
Each new disc being an evolutionary creation - a variation on a theme.
Nowt much wrong with that methinks.
Works of continuity and consistency - same same - but different.
Certainly no repetitive formula this.
Once home I hit the horizontal, plug in and relax - go where the music takes me.
Mesmerized and hypnotized by imagined magical soundscapes - the soundtrack to my natural world - the songs of my nature - the music of my life
All that I find calm and contemplative.
However conversely I often find myself taken to the edge of chaos and confusion, but there is pleasure to be found in the pain.
The calm before the storm followed by the sunshine after the rain.
Waves crashing to the rocks - before back-washing into the deep on the undertow.
Drowning/Drowned
Drowndead.
Rebirth/reborn.
Reincarnate
Sweet, soured vocals and honeyed, rasping playing compliment and contrast on this recording.
Now I am sure I will miss Will Sheff - but I am not for now on this outing.
Some will try to categorize this band (or is it a collective?); Folk? Americana? Indie? - but forget it.
Why bother - they just don't need it (sic) - and to pigeon-hole them does them no justice - they are simply unique to me and my ilk - and I hope they will be to you and yours too.
Now, I don't wanna spoil a good thing but, if references need to be made to help me help you understand where I think they're coming from, then I could do a lot worse than mention King Crimson, Robert Fripp, Talk Talk, Mark Hollis, Radiohead and Sugar Ros.
I hope I am not misleading you.
Whatever - this is a fine piece of contemporary music.
Does it take me closer to Eden?
Well, I like to think so.
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4 of 6 people found the following review helpful
on September 15, 2008
So haunting....and so unique. Check out their website to hear a couple tracks in their entirety, and then you will want to get this CD. I just bought my husband 6 new CDs (after hours and hours of research) and this is his favorite! This is the best chilling music! It is just like a dark fairytale. You will be taken away to another world. His falsetto is out of this world. I would describe their sound as Jeff Buckley, Coldplay, and Radiohead. But, they are totally their own sound!
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2 of 3 people found the following review helpful
on December 12, 2008
In 2008 I listened a lot to Todd Rundgren's powerful "Arena," Radiohead's excellent "In Rainbows," and Kings of Leon's great "Only by the Night," but this year's favorite was definitely Shearwater's startlingly original "Rook." Jonathan Meiburg's performance here is one of those fine reminders that the best instrument we have for creating evocative, wondrous music remains the human voice.
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on May 22, 2009
It took me a while to finally purchase this. For various reasons I was very hesitant. I'm glad I did. This album is a soft-spoken one with some really great individual songs that stands up well to a start-to-finish hearing. The lyrics are more interesting than I would have suspected before I concentrated on them. Amazon wants me to list it as lo-fi but it seems a poor description. Indie rock with a calm undercurrent is how I'd describe it.
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This was definitely their most refined album to date when it came out. And it has some incredible songwriting, gorgeous instrumentation, and solid atmosphere. But their more recent albums have been even better.
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