shearwater the golden archipelago
  • THURSDAY, APRIL 01, 2010

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Longtime fans of the band have to know by now: Shearwater reads like a novel. The Golden Archipelago, a journey of sense and time, travels across the sonic plane with intermittent outbursts, and a subtle fragility that commands undivided attention. Bells and chimes trickle like clockwork behind a larger machine, funneling it's vastness around the listener. It's next to impossible to separate track from track, as the wheels turn so fluidly, you're five deep before you even notice anything has drastically changed. It's the kind of affecting cohesiveness that inspires poetry.

"Meridian" starts to creep with a slow, steady building of layers, like the angry sea transitioning from tranquility to storms. Shearwater has always been an aquatic band (they're named for a sea-bird), and they have a bit of a nautical sound in their guitar strings. But they're often grounded by the brute force of their about-face moves, like strategically dropping a drum beat for shock value (gets me every time), like in "Black Eyes". Even after all these records, it is still thrilling.

You'd think after "Rooks" (echoes of which can be heard in the part-writing), the screaming intensity of Jonathan Meiburg would no longer be satisfying. But the man has a habit of creating an atmosphere even with the most predictable of Shearwater-esque melodies. The ebb and flow of the record really does go from night to day, several times, for that roller coaster effect that used to be so popular when everybody made records for the full forty-five minute experience. Meiburg must love the format, because Shearwater is immersed in a necessity to have the full record existing on one plane.

Hearing one track or another solo could be dismissed as pretentious orchestral rock, but don't be lazy. I think the reality is that Shearwater does everything right that Coldplay said it did on X&Y, sweeping ambiance, a greater sense of cohesion, and an epic arc of songs. Coldplay was just boring; Shearwater has created an entire universe to exist in, and if you let yourself, you can get lost in it for quite some time. Like a good page turner, The Golden Archipelago stays on its toes, with sneaky climactic moments. And once it gets to the "Missing Islands", it ends, as abruptly as its first cadence, and I'm ready to give it one more spin.

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MP3:"Black Eyes" - The Golden Archipelago
Concert: Shearwater at Florence Gould, 2008
Shearwater on Myspace
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