February 27, 2010

Shearwater - "The Golden Archipelago"

 *yawn* Whew! I'm tired! This record just about put me to sleep and that's not necessarily a bad thing. Seriously. "The Golden Archipelago" is the latest release from Austin, Texas based Shearwater and apparently the final piece of a trilogy that also includes "Rook" and "Palo Santo". I will admit, that being a fan of the great Okkervil River, I had no idea that these dudes were at once in that band. I should have known after listening to this record because the lyrical content is a dead giveaway. Do every single one of these dudes have masters degrees in WORDSANDTHEMESOTHERPEOPLEWILLNEVERUNDERSTAND? Where as OR is known to mix it up with rock tunes that can swing while being able to mask the intellect they are weaving amongst guitars and drums,  Shearwater keeps the same easy going style throughout TGA for the most part and it will hammer you to sleep with soft strings, unimposing drums and singer and mastermind Jonathan Meiburg's lyrics and operatic style of singing. Meiburg might have listened to some Pink Floyd as youngster, specifically Floyd from the era of "The Wall" and "The Final Cut".  He sounds, to me, a lot like Roger Waters and the use of his voice mixed with the music is haunting and swooping. His lyrics can go right over your head if you are not paying much attention, and the ambient sounds that emerges from the instruments will hypnotize you if you are not careful. And just like Waters, he might be a little too self absorbed, which punctuates his inability to see the flaws in his work.
           Pretentious? A bit. A band writing a trilogy about man's effect on nature? A little heady but one you can commend (The record opens with "The National Anthem of Bikini Atoll" actually sung by refugees of the island. Look it up.)The record seemingly is sequenced in order, so pay attention! There is a story there! Somewhere...  Jesus! These dudes write songs about this?!? All in all, I get it but it kinda takes the fun out of music. I've learned to stop listening intently to the entirety and just enjoy the prog-like craftmanship that Shearwater has perfected in its playing. My hope is that now that they have this out of their system, they will start to take themselves less seriously and let it hang out a little because, with this talent, I think they can excel but only once they lighten up. The music is fabulous but the lack of more than one rock tune (The great "Black Eyes") makes it for a long ride.           You can read all the other reviews written by skinny jean, thick framed glasses wearing nerdos and you'll see that every single one of them call this a masterpiece and hail it as the almighty but I'm holding off. I'll keep listening and thinking that it will click 100% with me over time. It might be a "grower" or it might just be another piece of forgetful self indulgence. Regardless, I'll go see them at the 506 on March 25th and see if the live show will perk me up. Deep down inside, I feel like it will because I believe in these guys; I just think they are a step or two away.

Here is the video for the track, "Hidden Lakes"


  1. I love the Roger Waters analogy. Great piece.

  2. Your review is charitable and well-written.

  3. You got a problem with thick glasses? This is a masterpiece!

    ... But seeing it live might put you to sleep again. Best to listen through headphones, tucked in your bed.