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Rook
 
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Rook

3 Jun. 2008 | Format: MP3

£7.99 (VAT included if applicable)
Also available in CD Format
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Format: Audio CD
As much as I like Okerville River, I believe Shearwater's new album Rook beats any of their albums hands down. Powerful and melodic Scott Walker-esq vocals blended with beautiful cinemascope haunting sounds, Rook is one of the best albums of the year with each song leaving you yearning for more. If you like them and this album, you have to see them live! They are AMAZING live. Even better than in the studio, really great band, lovely album. My stand out track is Rooks
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Format: Audio CD
I have Okkervil River's "The Stage Names" and apart from "Unless it Kicks" I wasn't overly impressed. I have been meaning to check out this evocatively named offshoot for quite a while and finally got round to it following generally favourable reviews of this new one.

The opener is fairly decent but then I was a little dismayed by the title track. Its an "epic" song that seems very concious of the fact that its trying to be "epic". A bit like an actor thats trying too hard and forgetting that the audience don't want to know that he's acting. A similar track would be John Mile's "Music". Not exactly pretentious but overdone.

Luckily the album improves from thereon and the next six tracks are remarkably solid, varied and entertaining. Leviathan Bound becomes the new opener, Home Life rumbles on like a thunderstorm receding into the distance before the short and almost violent Lost Boys. Then comes the rocking Century Eyes, the gorgeous I Was A Cloud has a great hook in the vocals and then this group of songs finishes up with South Col which conveys a feeling of a high mountain, partly obscured by snow laden clouds, using keening guitar sounds and plenty of space.

I'm not too sure about Snow Leopard. At first listen it seemed like a bit of filler, but that's an early impression.

Meiburg's vocals are surprisingly atonal, and show a remarkable similarity to Scott Walker. However he saves the only genuine melody for the closing track "The Hunter's Star". Which is actually my favourite on the album.

The whole thing is much more of an English Folk album rather than the Americana you would expect. I'm rather taken with it.

Recommended

As a footnote I've gone back to "The Stage Names" and have found it a lot better than I remember.
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Format: Audio CD
This is amazingly the fifth album by Jonathan Meiburg's solo project Shearwater, a band so under the radar they had pretty much gone unnoticed here in the UK, apart from a small feature in the much missed independent music magazine, Comes With A Smile, way back in 2004. Even in the US it was only really with last year's Palo Santo that the band garnered wider recognition, with the album acquiring enthusiastic reviews from the likes of the New York Times, Pitchfork and US music magazine Magnet; and provided the first indications that this solo project could outshine the music of his other band, Okkervil River, which he has only recently quit. Shearwater were formed in 2001, as as an outlet for the quieter and more introspective songs of Meiburg and Okkervil co-founder Will Sheff, with both bands running simultaneously for much of this decade. Sheff shared the vocals on the bands first three albums, up until 2004's Winged Life, but has since taken more of an `instrumental' back seat in the band.

I only really sat up and took notice of Shearwater's music last year, via a review in Plan B magazine of Matador's expanded and remixed reissue of their excellent Palo Santo album, which hinted at something special and very different from what I'd expected. A sound akin to late-period Talk Talk, Radiohead, David Sylvian, and even the Buckley's (Tim and Jeff).

Unlike the last album which clocked in at an expansive 80 minutes (including a second CD of outtakes and extras), Rooks comes in at a meagre 39 minutes. But boy, what a 39 minutes. This is some of the most dynamic, atmospheric and exquisite music I've heard in a very long time.
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By Sick Mouthy VINE VOICE on 3 July 2008
Format: Audio CD
This is a very special record, of the type that doesn't seem to come along too often - self-contained, mysterious, beautiful, powerful. It feels religious but isn't; it's about birds, and love, and, quite possibly, impending environmental disaster. It's short - just 38 minutes - but perfectly weighted. Essentially folk, but experimental. Bits of it rock really quite hard, other bits are almost impossibly fragile. When the horn breaks over the top of the guitars, drums, double bass, and spaceship noise in The Snow Leopard... that might be my favourite musical moment of the year.
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Format: Audio CD
After my last review of a Shearwater album -the expansive double "Paulo Santo " - I enquired what is it with this band and birds. .....well doh! I've since discovered that front man Jonathon Meiburg is a keen ornithologist which I suppose was pretty obvious when you think about it. Anyway Rooks is their new one and as well as keeping the ornithological theme going it's more of their tender wracked powerfully affecting music with Meiburgs quavering falsetto once again the palpable emotional core.
Rook is their fifth album and if criticism is to be levelled in the direction of this band it,s that those five albums have seen little divergence, over the course of those releases, from the first. So yes Rook is more of the same though when you talking about music as invariably sublime as Shearwater it would be churlish to complain too much ..if at all.
So while the albums thematic hub is once again nature through allegorical meanings or less obtuse references it also centres around silvery guitars chords or forlorn stretched piano augmented by banjo, organ, electric, lap steel , vibraphone , horns, harp , clarinet , glockenspiel and wraithlike strings. But there is deep and noticeable differences between each track which makes Rook compelling listening and answers I suppose the charge that each album fails to move on from the previous one. Why should they when every album offers such multi faceted delights
Accordingly "Homelife" is stately chamber pop, and "Century Eyes" has stomping rock chords, ardent percussive wallops and a vocal yowl that would startle police horses. "I Was A Cloud" is a delicate ballad with notes floating like dust motes in bright sunshine leading onto the atonal instrumental strains of "South Col".
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