Shearwater isn’t a rock band. Not in the conventional sense. What appeared onstage at the Parish last night was more like a chamber orchestra that used a virtual bathtub of non-rock instruments. I might be missing one or two, but that included a harp, hammered dulcimer, string section, oboe, xylophone, trumpet, and couple of different keyboards.
This was all in service of recreating Rook
(Matador), their new disc, which is already being hailed by the press as one of the albums of the decade. Songwriter and vocalist Jonathan Meiburg’s vision is melancholy, filled with overwhelming textures and shifting rhythms. A fascination with nature, birds in particular, gives his lyrics a murky depth, yet his melodies and uplifting tenor act as counterweight that draws the listener imperceptibly closer.
was like shifting sands, from startlingly quiet to psychedelic sheets of feedback. MVP of the evening was Thor Harris, who's listed as a percussionist, but adds much more by beating, tapping, or rubbing anything nearby, including that hypnotic dulcimer. The illuminated tranquility of “I Was a Cloud” and “The Hunter’s Star,” a near-Beatlesesque lullaby, stood apart among Rook
’s sumptuous calm and unrefined roar.
After a short break, Shearwater returned as a fivepiece and played a 35-minute set of some older material, including songs from their much-loved Palo Santo
. It was of a piece with what preceded it, but definitely showed that with Rook
, Meiburg and friends have greatly exceeded any expectations of what they're capable of, while also re-imagining what a rock band can be. Read More | Comment »