When Jonathan Meiburg first opens his mouth on Rook, we're not sure where he is going. The slow, simple piano layered with soft vocals leads us to jump to conclusions... Is this a Coldplay knockoff? (and we mean the not-so-good version, boring ballads and all). Never judge an album by the first fifteen seconds. What actually follows is an explosion of sound, ushering us into thirty-five minutes full of surprises. And then brings us right back down.
Shearwater has been described many ways, including "haunting, eerie" and "almost impossibly majestic and beautiful" (thanks, NPR). "Rook," the title track, hits a really strong note for the beginning of the album, with a thumping bass pedal and a great guitar intro. We want to describe it as triumphant melancholy, but it might be easier to just listen to it. The trumpet during the bridge makes the texture of the song vaguely Beirut, but more grounded by the piano we heard in the beginning. The following tracks go up and down like a roller coaster (but a sad one) that layers and delayers with harmonies, xylophones, and all kinds of other things. The result is a great combination of depth and grandeur, a kind of waking dream.
The track "Home Life" starts with running pianos, a shuffle beat, and Meiburg's eerie falsetto floating over the groove. This is probably the preferred combination of things for Shearwater. They strike this sentiment often, later adding in some sort of extra, unconventional instruments like clarinets and strings to expand their palette. Then you have tracks like "Century Eyes" which hit a high note and stick with it, and rock out like The New Pornographers.
Fans of well-orchestrated dream-rock, or early Brian Eno (or both) will really, really, REALLY dig this album. Rook is out June 3rd. - joe puglisi