Release Date: Jun 3, 2008
Record label: Matador
Genre(s): Indie, Rock
In 2007 Shearwater made the jump from Misra to Matador, culminating in a generously stocked reissue of 2006's excellent Palo Santo. It was a fitting partnership, as the band was beginning to settle into a more eclectic, rock-oriented outfit, raising the bar for its forthcoming "official" Matador debut. At just over 36 minutes, Rook is tailor-made for the dwindling attention span of the information age, but if ever the dated phrase "all killer, no filler" were to apply, it would be here.
When it was announced in early May that Shearwater main man, Jonathan Meiburg, was leaving his day job as Okkervil River sideman to focus on the promotion of Shearwater's fine fifth album, Rook, it wasn't really that much of a surprise. Meiburg's distinct bell-like vocal gymnastics have been slowly moving further back in the mix on Okkervil's albums, starting with 2005's Black Sheep Boy, and Okkervil leader Will Sheff (who founded both bands with Meiburg) has been moving out of Shearwater since before 2006's Palo Alto. This may be the most mutually beneficial band lineup reshuffling ever: Sheff turned in the best work of his career in 2007 with The Stage Names, and Meiburg has delivered the album of his life with Rook.
Review Summary: The first thoroughly enjoyable indie rock album of the year includes one of the year's best songs in general in "Snow Leopard" and consistently beautiful songwriting.No one can deny that Shearwater has an infatuation with birds. Indeed, their band name is a species of bird, the background of their website features birds, they named an album Winged Life, they put two birds on the cover of their Thieves EP, and their latest album, Rook, is also named after a species of bird. This bird metaphor works well as a descriptor of the band's sound, particularly vocalist Jonathan Meiburg's voice, as well as a descriptor of the band's history and growth.
It's almost Homeric in scope, the story of Shearwater. After five years and three LPs, the Austinites came out to the rest of the world in 2006 on Misra with their accomplished fourth album, Palo Santo, which was then re-released last year in a deluxe edition by Matador Records. With that, it became clear that the band was fully and finally singer Jonathan Meiburg's, after years of collaboration with Okkervil River's Will Sheff.
Austin's Shearwater has been around for the better part of a decade, but with frontman Jonathan Meiburg stint playing keyboards for Okkervil River (he only recently quit the band) and with Okkervil's emergence as a popular indie act, Rook is pretty likely to reach a much wider audience. The two bands don't actually sound alike at all, but Shearwater apply the grandeur of Okkervil's lyrics to their music. Meiburg's manneristic singing is instantly recognizable but hard to pin down (maybe he sounds like...