“Jet Plane and Ox Bow” Shearwater
This is the ninth studio album from the Austin, Texas-based, art-rock band. Lead singer-songwriter and multi-instrumentalist, Jonathan Meiburg’s singing style infuses all his songs with a drama that’s quite compelling. The lyrics are intelligent and meaningful, with some of the songs on this album — particularly “Quiet Americans” — meant as a protest to the current state of American life. A really strong collection. Interesting side notes: Meiburg started with the band, Okkervil River. He has a master’s degree in geography with an emphasis on ornithology. And a shearwater is a seabird related to the albatross.
1. (3:38) Prime — Starts with synthesizer arpeggios. Then is layered with additional synths, thundering timps, hammered dulcimers, and Meiburg’s dramatic vocals. **
2. (3:33) Quiet Americans — Keyboard blurps and snapping snare drum. Builds into an epic with a 1980s sound and biting lyrics about Americans’ self-absorption. (Note: “piss” is in the lyrics, but that’s not an official FCC.) ****
3. (4:13) A Long Time Away — Urgent, insistent drumming drives this power-pop tune.
4. (4:45) Backchannels — Ballad with a steady rhythm playing throughout.
5. (6:12) Filaments — Repeated, skipping beat with Meiburg’s vocals soaring above. Electric piano provides a nice counterpoint. Lots of cool effects. ****
6. (4:12) Pale Kings — Big sky rock ‘n’ roll love song. Amazingly, a bit of banjo (or banjo-like synth) has been incorporated. ***
7. (4:29) Only Child — Uplifting ballad with great harmonies and hooks. ***
8. (3:39) Glass Bones — Another rocker, with a ticking clock track and an off-kilter rhythm.
9. (5:09) Wildlife in America — Guitar and piano ballad with swooping, swirling synths. FCC: "fucker"
10. (6:39) Radio Silence — Pulsing, thumping electronica. Matching angular guitar overlaid with sparse vocals. ***
11. (5:39) Stray Light at Clouds Hill — Sprawling closer. Ringing guitars, swelling synths and reverbed vocals.