SHEARWATER – Rook (Matador)

I was pointed towards Shearwater by a free CD of Matador artists that I picked up from my local record store, and to honest apart from a couple of bands that I was already aware of there was nothing on there that appealed to me – apart from Shearwater. They stood out head and shoulders above all the rest, and so it was a no-brainer as to which album I was going to get. The band is a side project of Okkervil River’s Jonathan Meiburg, but knowing nothing of his day job I can come to it unencumbered, and find that this is an excellent alt.rock record. ‘On The Death Of The Waters’ is a dramatic opener, from its hushed beginning to the shock when the whole band crash in, and then drop out again for a gentle coda. A great start, and just what I was hoping for from the sampler CD. ‘Rooks’ was released as a single, and I could see it being played on alternative radio stations, as it is quite catchy without being overly commercial. ‘Leviathan Bound’ is helped along by an insistent piano riff and a nice string arrangement, and we also hear Meiburg inject some passion into his vocals. ‘Home Life’ stretches out to more than seven minutes, but it is to the credit of the group that it does not drag, and once again it is helped along with some restrained use of strings and woodwind. ‘Lost Boys’ starts so quietly that you can hardly hear it, until the military drumming of Thor Harris comes in to spur it on, and then it is over far too quickly. ‘Century Eyes’ is the first song which really picks up the pace, with some furious strumming on the guitar and a more urgent vocal from Meiburg, and yet the following ‘I Was A Cloud’ couldn’t be more different, with just the lightest touches of guitar and piano on a plaintive ballad. ‘South Col’ is a brooding exercise in controlled feedback, and sounds like an experiment which has just been dumped in the middle of these gentle, folky tunes, but I can forgive a couple of minutes like that when it is followed by the superb ‘The Snow Leopard’. Once again, it starts deceptively quietly, but when the drums and guitar make an appearance it is transformed into a powerful rock song, complete with discordant guitar fills, and the merest hint of a horn section at the climax. ‘The Hunter’s Star’ rounds things off with another of their trademark piano ballads, and bring to a close an all too short album. Shearwater are another band that I would not have tried had I not happened to pick up the free CD, and it does make me wonder how much more great music I am missing out on by the bands getting no publicity, but in this case it was fate that drew me to them, and I am glad that it did.
On The Death Of The Waters