The follow-up to 2010’s The Golden Archipelago is the Austin, Texas bands first on new label Sub Pop.
A more accessible album (mainly due to stronger, much more direct songs in my opinion), album opener Animal Life rolls along, topped with a Robert Fripp-esque guitar wail.
Breaking the Yearlings follows the Shearwater trait of being a homage to nature, animals (yearlings are young horses) and birds and this song with it’s full-on drums and 60’s organ riff, is another to add to the list.
Unusually for Shearwater, there are bluesey elements to some of the guitar parts on this album, particularly on the track Dread Sovereign.
The albums key track is You As You Were, which is already shaping up to be my favourite Shearwater track. Hammered piano over a metronomic kick drum gives way to a sweetly sequenced synth line, and a rapidly building frenzied vocal that leaves you breathless by the end of this powerful song.
Don’t take my word for it, have a listen to a stream of the track, from the Shearwater SoundCloud account, below.
“When you fell in the rocks
At a bend in the river
With the blood from your nose
Running hard on your fingers
And through the rest of your life.”
You As You Were
Stream on iPhone / iPad
Insolence sounds like Raintree Crow meets late period Talk Talk (come on, how could I write a Shearwater review without mentioning singer Jonathan Meiburg’s resemblance to Mark Hollis?) and Immaculate starts off sounding like Dr Feelgood until the vocals kick in, which was a bit of a surprise.
The drums and percussion are very prominent and high in the mix on this album, so on occasions the atmosphere / space usually found in Shearwater songs is toned down a little, but it’s forgivable when you hear songs as strong as You As You Were and Open Your Houses.
Run the Banner Down displays a lighter touch, compared to the majority of the album, with a delicate picked guitar and gentle tom and percussion work that gives the song its unique pace.
The album closes with Star of the Age, which is perhaps a little too “lighters in the air” for my liking and a track I won’t return to as often as others on this album. The penultimate track Believing Makes it Easy would have been a more fitting ending to Animal Joy, but if a track like Star of the Age brings the music of Shearwater to a wider audience, it’s a small price to pay for getting music of this quality out to a more mainstream audience.
Buy Animal Joy on Amazon
All lyrics © Shearwater