Posted by: Johnny Loftus on June 3, 2008 at 5:00 pm

Shearwater, Rook (Matador, 2008)

Listen: “Lost Boys”

When you just can’t take it anymore, when the florescent vomit of the 1980s has you wondering if indie music will ever find a tasteful rock to perch on, that’s when Shearwater releases a record. Look at that album cover. These Austinites have a plan to keep things smooth, artful, and evocative. And when they play your town, don’t look for an afterparty at some downtown DJ loft. Look for it in a hayloft, or maybe even on the banks of a river. Rook is the follow-up to Palo Santo, and the official Matador debut for Shearwater. It also solidifies the band somewhat, since frontman Jonathan Meiburg has announced his departure from Okkervil River (where he played keyboards and assorted other things) in order to focus full-time on this project. It sounds solid and steady, too. Meiburg’s professional falsetto is opposite the disaffection favored so much in indie music, and on “Rooks,” the musical saw-led “Lost Boys” (that becomes a righteous plea) and “I Was a Cloud,” which with its touches of spindly strings and plaintive acoustic guitar is as nebulous as an actual cloud, Shearwater supports his musing with sounds equal to the measured reach of his singing. The saw returns for the opening strains of “Sought Col,” while “Leviathan, Bound” tempers the record’s frailties with a steadily swirling string section and tracked vocals that surge nicely. It’s true: with Rook, Shearwater can kill you with the mellow. — Johnny Loftus

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