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Shearwater: A Golden Archipelago 

click to enlarge cd_shearwater_golden_archcipel.jpg

Shearwater

A Golden Archipelago

Matador Records

When Jonathan Meiburg decided to leave behind his shared writing duties in Okkervil River to focus more on Shearwater (a side project he and Okkervil band mate Will Sheff started in 1999), the result was the critically acclaimed Palo Santo. Less than two years later, with the release of Rook, Meiburg and Shearwater mainstays, Thor Harris and Kimberly Burke, showed even more evidence this band could go to any musical landscape they deemed fit. So, with Shearwater's sixth album, and third in a series relating to mankind's impact on the world, A Golden Archipelago is colossal in not just the physical land it covers, but the emotional, larger-than-life adventure, and grief-stricken scope it seeks. The best album to date in this new decade, Golden displays Meiburg and company fit for any stage.

With a stunning cover featuring a small boat leaving an island's shore for another in the near off distance, A Golden Archipelago consists of 11 songs that carry the listener from island to island. The material touches on Meiburg's travels (Falklands, Bikini Atoll, and Madagascar) and his grandfather's time as a radio operator in the South Pacific. All songs on Golden stand out in their own right partly because of the way Meiburg moves from slight breath to hair-rising yell. His vocal deliveries are clean and as graceful as the lapping of waves on the sea. As with most Shearwater songs, Meiburg prefers keeping parts obscure, similar to a lens coming in and out of focus. As the album progresses, this deliberate tact assists the listener to get a delicate glimpse of what's being described without entering dangerous concept album terrain.

This album should not be skimmed: A Golden Archipelago will take you further from the surface and deeper into the unchartered world Shearwater dare to explore.

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