[When a record release falls through the cracks, and the set is sent to us months after the fact, sometimes our man Jay Kumar picks it up for a feature we call Back in Bl-- actually, we don't call it anything. Here is the first of two new reviews from Mr. Kumar -- Ed.]
Originally a collaboration between Okkervil River members Jonathan Meiburg and Will Sheff, Shearwater is now exclusively a vehicle for Meiburg. On the atmospheric Palo Santo, singer and multi-instrumentalist Meiburg steps out into the spotlight with some hauntingly beautiful vocal turns and melodies that recall Arcade Fire’s Win Butler and Radiohead’s Thom Yorke.
Meiburg and his band -— Kim Burke on bass, drummer Thor Harris, multi-instrumentalist Howard Draper -— proffer spare instrumentation and varied sounds throughout, from the quiet, yearning title track to the fuzzy riffed “White Waves” to the piano-fueled “Seventy Four, Seventy Five.” Tempo and dynamics play a key role on this album, with “Failed Queen” and “La Dame et la Licorne” providing prime showcases for Meiburg’s soaring vocals. This isn’t dumb fun, good-time rock like the Eagles Of Death Metal (not that there’s anything wrong with that); Shearwater plumbs territory that's often introspective and downbeat, and yet uplifting at times.
Palo Santo benefits from repeated spins, as the listener finds something rewardingly different each time. Much like a John Irving novel or an episode of HBO’s “Deadwood,” this record offers a dense, satisfying, slow-burning experience. Get it, throw on some headphones and listen early and often. If you like your indie rock with some depth to it, you won’t be disappointed. Palo Santo was released on Misra May 9. -- Jay Kumar
Shearwater -- "Seventy-Four, Seventy-Five" -- Palo Santo
Shearwater -- "White Waves" -- Palo Santo
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[Order Palo Santo from Insound here]