Austin, Texas’ Shearwater has released yet another theatrical journey for indie-deprived individuals, while trying its hardest to appeal to fans of The Decemberists and other NPR darlings.
The band is known for being underappreciated, but as many see it, they are more under-represented by the small following of dedicated fans they have acquired over the years.
Their new attempt at sonic expressionism, “Animal Joy,” is a deviation from their usual, more experimental approach to music. Produced by the newly acquired indie titan, Subpop, Shearwater has taken on a less exploratory, more radio-friendly approach, that consists of a conscious interbreeding of rock opera and pop album.
In select tracks – “Insolence” and “Immaculate,” to pick two – we hear this showcased in particular. Shearwater’s trademark big-minded approach to man’s relationship with nature (no wonder – front man Jonathan Meiburg holds a master’s degree in geography and ornithology) shines here, with an added sweeping grandeur.
Meiburg has equipped himself with an amped-up emo-choirboy vocal style explicitly suited for magnetic gestures, without too much pop to give it an over-familiar feel. The music itself is quite sweet in its own disjointed way, consisting largely of churning guitars and occupied percussion and keeping this record on a higher accessibility level than their previous albums.
Listeners looking to experience a unique take on theatrical music with constantly folding, rearranging parts will find “Animal Joy” a good album to pick up.