|Photo by: Sub Pop Records|
Key Tracks: “Animal Joy,” “Breaking the Yearlings,” “You As You Were”
Texas-based indie rockers Shearwater have perfected the art of telling stories via lyrics.
Their latest album, Animal Joy, is a compilation of airy and quasi-psychadelic tales that paint images of nature in the listener’s mind. It’s not as cohesive as some of the band's other work, but that’s part of Animal Joy’s charm.
The album plays out like real life, shifting from melancholic to cheerful in a heartbeat. Between Jonathan Meiburg’s eloquent vocals and a variety of gorgeous instrumentals, Animal Joy takes listeners on a tumultuous yet enjoyable ride.
The album gets an elegant start with “Animal Life.” The track has a gentle sound in the beginning, then gradually swells into a showcase of ambient grandeur--much like the rest of the album.
On “Breaking the Yearlings,” the tone shifts at a breakneck speed from sunny and light to a darker and harder vibe. Shearwater’s knack for storytelling is prominently displayed throughout the track with image-evoking lyrics, like “I come right back into the sound / I take one breath and spiral down / And you, more watching the road / Or watching the flood stage rise.”
“You As You Were” begins with simple piano and then slowly unfolds into an ambient masterpiece with some Animal Collective flair. It’s an uplifting piece, filled hauntingly beautiful backing vocals and upbeat percussion. Meiburg’s celebratory chants of “I am leaving the life” at the climax of the song leaves the listener feeling strangely optimistic.
But that’s all shattered once “Insolence” rolls around. It’s a quieter, more subdued track that slowly transitions to a biting intensity. Piano weaves in between piercing electric guitar and Meiburg’s dramatic voice toward the end, leaving the listener in somewhat of a trance.
“Immaculate” revitalizes the album with an energetic guitar riff and a definite rock sound. And once it’s over, we’re brought back to Shearwater’s somber side with “Open Your Houses (Basilisk).” There’s a quiet intensity to the song that’s hard to tune out.
The remainder of the album plays out quietly as background noise, and nothing in particular truly stands out until the end. Meiburg’s theatrical vocals on “Star of the Age” wake the listener up once more, but the track’s ethereal instrumentals could serve as a dreamy lullaby.
With such a diversity in sound and illustrative lyrics to accompany it, Animal Joy could possibly win Shearwater more recognition amongst indie fans. You just have to be up for the ride.
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