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Shearwater – Animal Joy

March 5, 2012

A beautiful work that one would be sorry to miss.

Having heard little of Shearwater before this year, other than a few tracks off of their previous album, The Golden Archipelago (2010), I was interested to hear buzz about how good their most recent album, Animal Joy, is. Not just willing to settle with hearing about this album, I have decided to listen to it. This is one of the best decisions I have made this year.

The album begins triumphantly, with a slow grower of a track called “Animal Life”. It turns out this is one of the special abilities that the band Shearwater possesses. Many of the tracks on this album build and build until they are wonderful songs, reaching their full potential. One of the most distinctive parts of this album is singer Jonathan Meiburg’s fantastic voice. His baritone rises and falls, showcasing an impressive range. But, in my opinion, the winner of this album is the amazing percussion and bass elements that every song brings. They effortlessly drive the songs along and add expression to the songs that make them more than simply good songs. They become great songs on this great album.

This is one album where any song could be a standout track among standout tracks. Described as a much poppier sound from this band, this is an extremely comfortable sounding band. Every element of the songs are well thought out and don’t detract from the work as a whole. If I had to choose a track that really is a “standout track”, it would have to be “You As You Were”, the track that piqued my interest originally. I said this when I first heard it and I’ll say this again: one could easily compare this band to Snow Patrol, but rather than wallow in pop mediocrity, Shearwater have a winning formula that I will keep returning to.

In the end, this album is a brilliantly named masterpiece. It possess some of the best quietly masterful pop heard in this new year. To pass on this album is to pass on the joy of listening to music that simultaneously challenges and rewards you with beauty. Perhaps this will be a step that brings me closer to truly appreciating what other folky acts (such as Okkervil River and The Mountain Goats) have done, but until then I am happy to sing this album’s praises as a beautiful work that one would be sorry to miss.

“You As You Were” by Shearwater

Animal Joy was released on 2/14/2012 by Sub Pop. Buy it here or here.

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