For months I’ve been teased with little snippets of information regarding Shearwater’s upcoming album, Animal Joy. For months I’ve been thinking about this new sound, which Jonathan Meiburg (vox, frontman) has classified as straying from what every Shearwater fan expects from them: lush compositions enveloped in histrionic-layered lyrics evoking emotions only music can represent.
Yesterday, I received an e-mail from the band’s newsletter telling me the release date of the album and what to expect if I pre-order it. I was also given two links, each directing me to a song from the bands’ forthcoming eighth album. Surely, I clicked on the links, and found myself downloading “Breaking the Yearlings” and “You as You Were.”
Both songs have the distinct, thundering voice Meiburg is known for, and both sound nothing like each other. As I sit here trying to write about them, I can only think of how weird it is if you’ve never heard this folk band, even weirder if you’ve never seen them live. So, here’s the minor introduction, which will precede the inadequate description of the two tunes you HAVE to listen to and add to your library.
Shearwater’s inception came about a few years after Will Sheff (Okkervil River) and Meiburg had worked together in the formers’ band. They opted to do a side project (Shearwater) that would attack the softer, more folkier side Okkervil River wasn’t paying attention to. Not long ago, Meiburg stopped participating in OR to spend more time with Shearwater, and Sheff did the same, only he kept with OR. Now, over a decade since its birth, the band’s switched labels–working with Sub Pop–and releasing something new.
“Breaking the Yearlings” comes a little over three minutes long, layered with a heavy, repetitive beat, and electronic elements unknown to the Shearwater of yesterday. While the vocals aren’t as dramatic as Meiburg’s prior work, the lyrics do not disappoint–although there are moments I am not sure what he’s singing. As you can see, I am not as objective as I should, in part because it is difficult to hate such a master songwriter/singer.
While the previous song veers a lot from the band’s earlier sounds, I feel “You as You Were” is closer to what I’ve come to love about Shearwater’s songs: a great story found within each song. The instrumentation follows the same repetitive jive as the previous song, but the dramatic emotional outpour of Meiburg is readily available. Both songs do not disappoint, but rather make me anxious–I tend to get this antsy from drinking coffee–as I await the arrival of this new masterpiece.
Check the songs out, and let us know what you think!
“Breaking the Yearlings”:
“You as You Were”: