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I am new to the world of Shearwater. As a virgin traveler of this musical landscape, if I had to choose one word to describe what I've been hearing I think it would be this:
Big sound. Big ideas. Powerful high-register vocals and tightly wound, nature-themed lyrics such as:
"...chasing down an anodyne and half-reflected radiance to hide below the ancient barricade/in chambers like the rooms a swallow made/for an animal life..."
This kind of probing intelligence combines with thumping drums and throbbing guitar lines in the opening tracks "Animal Life" and "Breaking the Yearlings" to broadcast a kind of musical "barbaric yawp" from the top of Mt. Shearwater, and I couldn't help but move to the edge of my seat and take notice. "Dread Sovereign" pulls back on the reins for a more reflective mood, but the galloping-down-the-mountain tempo returns with "You As You Were" and "Immaculate." And whether the band sets the pace fast, slow, or somewhere in between, the intensity never seems to falter.
This is legendary-sounding indie rock that tries to put its finger on man's ancient pulse in the natural world. This kind of music commands attention.
I've been a Shearwater fan since they released the incredible Palo Santo (Bonus CD) (Exp) (Dig) in 2007. I loved 2008's Rook and 2010's The Golden Archipelago equally. They're frequently treated as a trilogy, but I've always thought that overblown. They differ in subject matter, instrumentation, even lyrical style. Palo Santo lyrics seem almost Shakespearean or King James Biblical, Rook sounds like the Grimm Brothers Fairy Tales, Golden Archipelago like poetry from a war front.
They do share qualities: high stakes in the subject matter, images drawn from the natural world, an unapologetically dramatic bent to the performances (but fully appropriate to the songs), excellent musicianship, dense and rich soundscapes, and the unearthly voice of Jonathan Meiburg. Despite these common qualities, some people who liked Palo Santo were put off by the conceptiness and remoteness of Rook and TGA. I can understand: many people want songs that can relate directly to their own lives.
Animal Joy succeeds at splitting the difference: it's an album about people, about love and betrayal and loss and overcoming grief. But it doesn't lose sight of the wider world or indulge in mopiness or excessive navelgazing.Read more ›
The rich, dark yet melodic sound is almost tailor-made for my music tastes. This band's talent, skill, wit, and heart are readily apparent.
Meiburg's vocals and penchant for mixing in odd effects and unexpected sounds works well for headphone listening, perhaps not quite as well for those times when one wants to twist the volume knob a bit more to the right.
The songs and lyrics are interesting, if not a bit artsy for artsy sake at times, but this crisply recorded set of songs offers enough tweaks and twists to keep it from languishing with those Decemberists' CDs I just cannot bring myself to break out.
All in all, "Animal Joy" proves solid throughout and has some transcendent moments. For me, this recording falls short of 5 stars, just on the cusp of 4 really. The CD packaging is my favorite so far in 2012, though.
I have only listened to Animal Joy 3 times so far on Mog, but am expecting the CD for my birthday soon. As other reviewers have stated (spot on), this album may be their most accessible. But this doesn't mean its a step down for the masses or for those who have already found and enjoy this band. It's still, and even more so, a gorgeous soundscape of layered instrumentaiton and voice. So well recorded and produced with great dynamic range and clarity. Each songs pretty much stands on its own, but again I have to listen to this album all the way thru. On a good sound system or good headphones you can get totally lost and immersed in this album. If Aracade Fire, AA Bondy, Bon Iver, Band of Horses or the Fleet Foxes can break thru with their music, this band absolutely should. Their music is every bit as good and better IMO than most of these (which I also like) and somehow even more satisfying. It doesn't lose its grip for me like Band of Horses or Fleet Foxes has because Shearwater's instrumentation, dynamic range and soundscape is much more complex, diverse and interesting. The genius talent and craftsmanship behind this music is so compelling and this album feels like their (Jonathan Meiburg's) breakthrough.
I've never seen Shearwater yet, but am looking to. Maybe Monday night in Baltimore.
Most Recent Customer Reviews
Beautifully produced, smart, engaging lyrics and an engaging voice.
This has been playing on Repeat for a while on my phone.
I absolutley love this album. It touches ones senses continuously!Published 17 months ago by Sheila F. Orlando
I'm a lyrics person, especially songs that tell a story, or in this case hint at a story. Animal life and the earlier rooks album, sets a mood, illustrates a moment in time, and... Read morePublished on June 12, 2014 by Leslie Anderson
Animal Joy is one of the best albums I've had the pleasure to listen to in the past decade. With ringing melodies that seem to echo from the mountains and rhythms that catch in... Read morePublished on December 2, 2013 by akmakansi
I am 60 years old. I am one of those rare people that listen to every sound every note on an album. So few hold my attention. I almost never write a review. Read morePublished on September 13, 2013 by duffy
I get great vibes off of most of the songs. Each has a moment that sticks our the most every time, making me want to listen more and more.Published on February 7, 2013 by yehti
This is one of the best albums that I have had the pleasure of listening to in all of 2012. It has fabulous highs, and relaxing lows. Perfect. Read morePublished on January 7, 2013 by Jefferson E. Schaecher
Heard Robert Plant in an interview speak of Shearwater and the Black Keys in the same sentence as bands to hear. He was right.Published on December 11, 2012 by Randy Coffey
Reading some of these reviews is pretty entertaining. You would thing the reviewers are expressing their opinions about the latest novel they have read. Read morePublished on November 16, 2012 by Ronald H. Parry