Monday, May 08, 2006


First things first. Rest in peace Grant McLennan. Listen to a Go-Betweens track today and remember what a wonderful talent Grant and the babd were.

Sorry about the long delay between posts. I've just been getting so hyphy lately. And listening to too much E-40 evidently. But on to the subject at hand namely the forthcoming album from Shearwater. If you've been a fan of the band for awhile then you are familiar with the ethereal shimmer of the band's last few releases the ep Thieves and Winged Life. Those two releases garnered comparisons to such alt-winsome bands as Belle And Sebastian and Talk Talk. Such awkward points of reference as "soft rock chamber music" were bandied about in an attempt to corner just what it is that Jonathan Meiburg and Will Scheff (both of Okkervil River) do in the context of Shearwater. Stop straining your powers of metaphor and clever referents because the new record Palo Santo (due to be released tomorrow) is a brand new beast altogether. I can cite a couple of obvious differences from past Shearwater releases immediately: 1) Meiburg does all the singing, you won't hear any of Scheff's highly identifiable warble anywhere on this record, 2) Meiburg (who's credited with writing all the songs) has pushed Shearwater's sound far from the breathy hum that we've come to expect. If you read Bars & Guitars with any regularity you're probably already familiar with Palo Santo's free download Seventy -four, Seventy-five. That song is a fairly good indicator of the direction that Meiburg is taking his band. Things are a bit louder, more grandiose, even more theatrical in tone. The sound the band is aiming for is clearer of a broader scope than their past releases. Meiburg ably attacks the sole vocal duties and even pushes his high pitched voice towards some dramatic crescendoes. Palo Santo is a powerfully dramatic record. Nothing is writ in smaller case letters here the band really goes for the gold on every song and thankfully succeeds most of the time. The heavy presence of keyboard and piano recalls Elton John before he settled into the soft complacency of super stardom, uber-wealth and "Candle In The Wind". Meiburg is fully in control of these songs and this confidence pays off with subtle careful powerful songs. Beautiful accents abound in these songs whether it be the surprising interjection of a trumpet or a vibraphone and they abutt very well with the noiser elements of found sound, guitar riffage and distortion. A fine album that's certainly on the current best of 2006.

1 from Palo Santo

Johnny Viola


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