Shearwater Rook Review

Originally written in 2008

Even though this is Shearwater’s 5th full length album, I’m betting not many people are even aware of their existence. Once a mere side project of Okkervil River, Shearwater has since blossomed with a musical genius their own. I was initially sad to see Will Sheff loosen his role with Shearwater, as I loved the collaborative work between him and Jonathan Meiburg. But I believe it was a crucial step in giving them their own distinct voice. With Rook, Jonathan takes the reins completely and together with the rest of Shearwater they produce their most brilliant album to date.

The album starts with just vocals and a quiet piano solo. Slowly building, the strings are subtly added, and then as if the song is taking a deep breath it starts to fade. Then with a sudden force, the entire band crashes like a wave of sound so full and powerful it’s impossible not to be pulled under. In the wake of the crash it returns to the beautifully calm, steadily building anticipation for what’s to come. Without missing a beat, the guitar riff kicks in with the drum’s in chase. This second, self titled track is catchy enough to keep you humming for hours while not destroying itself with a lack of depth.

Rook is driven by Jonathan’s voice but it’s taken home by the excellent instrumentation. With each enhancing part of the message, building on his beautiful yet somewhat dark lyrics. Lyrics focusing mainly on the relationship between man and nature and the difficulties in finding a fulfilling balance. There`s a lot of thought that went into this album and not a single word or note came to be without deliberation. This is not an album to put on in the background, it`s depth will capture your full attention.

Shearwater`s music is clean and defined yet powerfully orchestral, much larger than the sum of its parts. The sum of which is 39 minutes long, and it’s the only real complaint I have with the album. I wasn’t sure how Shearwater was going to follow the brilliant Palo Santo which only got better with its rerelease under their new label Matador. I’m happy to say its better than expected and finally brings them out of Okkervil’s shadow. If Rook is your first experience with Shearwater, you couldn`t have picked a better album.

Score: 8.5

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Dave Loft

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