Monday, February 13, 2012

Shearwater: "Animal Joy" (album review)

After three consecutive albums of conceptual indie rock, Austin's Shearwater return this week with their new record Animal Joy.  This time around, the music is being billed as a more straight-ahead rock record.

Don't let that description fool you, Animal Joy is far from a rock album.  Only the beefy, energetic "Immaculate" threatens to enter that realm.

No, Animal Joy is instead a collection of sleepy tracks that aim at delivering a gloomy mood, but almost always come shy of that goal.

The record kicks off with "Animal Joy", a theatrical number that sets a decent, if imperfect, tone.  The track that does deliver on that promise is "Open Your Hoses (Basilisk)", as it forms a completely immersive atmosphere.

Mostly though, the songs are muddled and confused.  "Insolence" is flighty, with wild swings in dynamics that make it difficult to listen to.  "Breaking The Yearlings" is overly busy, crammed full of sounds that compete for your attention, thereby negating each other.

"You As You Were" is the album's low-water mark.  The arrangement constantly gains momentum as the song progresses.  That mixed with Jonathan Meiburg's high-pitched vocals give the song an overwrought Coldplay-esque feel.

Elsewhere, "Dread Sovereign", "Run the Banner Down", and "Believing Makes It Easy" fair a little better, being simply flat and dull.

In the end, it's probably wise to take a pass on Animal Joy.

Shearwater play Lee's Palace in Toronto on February 21st with Sharon Van Etten.

Best tracks: "Open your Houses (Basilisk)", "Immaculate"

Track listing for Animal Joy:
  • Animal Life
  • Breaking The Yearlings
  • Dread Sovereign
  • You As You Were
  • Insolence
  • Immaculate
  • Open Up Your Houses (Basilisk)
  • Run the Banner Down
  • Pushing The River
  • Believing Makes It Easy
  • Star of the Age

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