SHEARWATER : Shearwaters are medium-sized long-winged seabirds. There are more than 30 species of shearwaters, a few larger ones in the genus Calonectris and many smaller species in the genus Puffinus. The Procellaria petrels and Bulweria were believed to belong to this group, but are only distantly related based on more recent studies, while the Pseudobulweria and Lugensa “petrels” are more closely related (Bretagnolle et al., 1998; Nunn & Stanley, 1998). The genus Puffinus can be divided into a group of small species close to Calonectris and a few larger ones more distantly related to both (Austin, 1996). One thing that can be agreed upon about taxonomy of Procellariidae is that it is in a state of flux. These birds are most common in temperate and cold waters. They are pelagic outside the breeding season.
SHEARWATER : BAND. Founded by Jonathan Meiburg and Will Sheff in 2001 and are from Austin, Texas. The Golden Archipelago completed a trilogy of beautiful and thought provoking albums preceded by Palo Santo and Rook.
Terms such as elegant, extraordinary and powerful are used in an attempt to categorize them. But it is almost impossible. Sometimes epic and grand, sometimes melancholic folk, Shearwater are a treasure chest waiting to be opened by the uninitiated.
Now here comes ‘Animal Joy’. Meiburg describes the new work as a departure and so it is. Trademark soaring vocals but now with an added earthy vibrancy that moves away from the more introspective earlier material. From the opening title track ‘Animal Life’ we are drawn into Shearwater’s new sense of urgency. This is a shimmering pop song that is instantly engaging. Meiburg’s vocals are the catalyst for the songs. His total commitment to his lyrics while percussionist Thor Harris urges the band forward is a joy to experience. This mood gathers momentum, ‘Breaking the Yearlings’ is an angry prophecy of natural disaster – a stark guitar riff and an almost industrial drum sound are perfect room mates here.
‘You as You Were’ has a hypnotic piano ringing through and builds with soul stirring urgency. When “Insolence” drops down to a more restrained tempo the intensity is not lost. ‘Run the Banner’ down is nothing short of brilliant as the hushed delivery and a lovely harp quieten the mood before ‘Pushing the River’ rails against the pressures of modern life.
When ‘Star of the Age’ arrives as the last track of the album we have an almost hymn like anthem of hope that takes flight and fades away. Here is an abundance of finely crafted quality and despite the new direct approach beauty and sensitivity are not sacrificed. Literate and epic. Find a quiet spot, preferably with a view, your headphones and Animal Joy then let yourself wonder.
9/10 almost perfect.