Shearwater does Shearwater pretty well on The Golden Archipelago

To be honest, at this point in their career, I’m not expecting anything particularly earth-shattering from Shearwater. Figuratively, that is. I don’t expect them to toy with their awesome, awesome formula too much, and on The Golden Archipelago, they deliver. Literally, I want Shearwater’s music to shatter earth, every sustained falsetto from Jonathan Meiburg and crash cymbal blowing hot magma through the floor. Figuratively, though. Literally. What?

The Golden Archipelago is basically just what I was hoping I’d get; or, rather, what I expected to get. The sound is, by and large, the Shearwater we know and love: we have our mid-tempo, mood-based tracks, our slow, mood-based tracks, and the ridiculously dramatic barn-burners. Take “Landscape at Speed” for a good example of the first, with its percussion at a constant and its piano chords on the downbeat. Other instruments sneak their way into the mix, like something that sounds suspiciously like a saxophone, and the song glides along effortlessly, ending in a calming sort of jam session. It’s the kind of song that’s neither boring nor overtly intense; instead, it seems to politely ask you to sit down for a few minutes and take a listen. Which is weird, because normally songs can’t talk.

On the other end of the spectrum are the deliberately melodramatic, high-octane tracks, which in my opinion work the best on the album (but then again, give me anything loud and I’ll squeal, so there’s that). Standout “Black Eyes” begins to pull the listener along as it slowly gets louder and louder until a sublimely catchy climax, and single “Castaways” works due to its tom-heavy, propulsive drumbeats. It’s like sailing on a ship made out of pure badassery*, listening to the kind of music you can’t help but smile when you hear. (And then you can go kill pirates or something.)

The only issue, really, is that the band might have packed on a bit too many of the slow tracks. As lovely as they can be, an inundation of them can cause the listener to start to lose interest. And I’m not saying I’m against slow, pretty songs — Shearwater has come across some gorgeous melodies and rode them out for minutes at a time in the past, and it’s great — it’s just that, maybe, the instrumental mid-and-end-of-song-jams aren’t quite as memorable as in the past.

Or maybe I’m wrong, and the CD is completely flawless rather than just very, very good and potentially one of my favorites of the year. Oy. Where’s my distortion pedal?

Shearwater – “Castaways” [MP3]

Shearwater – “Black Eyes” [MP3]

Purchase The Golden Archipelago

* Spellcheck does not recognize “badassery,” and told me I should replace it with “brassiere.” What’s the DEAL, Spellcheck?

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