Animal Joy - SUB POP
FILTER Grade: 86%
By Marty Sartini Garner on February 10, 2012
Though the group began as a side project for Okkervil River’s Jonathan Meiburg, Shearwater sharpened their own bones over the course of the so-called “Island Arc,” a trio of records masterminded by Meiburg that culminated in 2010’s The Golden Archipelago. Having left Okkervil in 2008 to devote himself more fully to Shearwater, the devoted birdwatcher forged a distinct aesthetic that closely mirrored the patterns of his hobby: wide-open spaces dotted with sparse instrumentation and melody, guided by a steady baritone and subject to occasional violent outbursts. On Animal Joy, Meiburg guides his quarry back to the mainland, anchoring his songs in dexterous basslines and steady rhythms. The Shearwater of the island trilogy lurks about—pianos hang in the title track, and much of Animal Joy is coated in a patina of synth—but the ambience here is strictly ambience. For all of the exploring, Shearwater is at their most affecting when they stay at home.