Shearwater’s “Jet Plane and Oxbow” a Soaring Success

14 Apr

One would assume that a band led by a guy with a master’s degree in biogeography — with a specialization in ornithology — would be something of a different species. And indeed, Austin, Texas-based Shearwater, doesn’t disappoint.

Lead singer-songwriter and multi-instrumentalist, Jonathan Meiburg, once spent the better part of a year in the Falkland Islands off the southern coast of Argentina studying seabirds. One of them was a species related to the albatross that goes by the name, shearwater — so now you know where the band’s name comes from.

Shearwater’s latest release, Jet Plane and Oxbow, is the band’s ninth studio album. And it shows how the band continues to grow. This is a particularly strong set of 11 songs. The subjects range from love songs to compositions that reflect Meiburg’s ongoing interest in environmental causes and his affinity with wildlife, particularly of the winged variety.

But there’s more here as well. Meiburg has included a number of songs in Jet Plane and Oxbow that shine a light on some of the hypocrisy of life in America today. The lyrics to “Quiet Americans,” the album’s first single, never get preachy or overbearing. But Meiburg pulls no punches in sharing his insights into some of the ugliness that exists in our country.

Track 5, “Filaments,” is another standout. This mesmerizing tune relies on a repeated, skipping beat — with Meiburg’s vocals soaring free like a bird in the sky. Electric piano provides a nice counterpoint. Lots of cool effects are added.

Continuing with the tracklist, “Pale Kings” is a “big sky” rock ‘n’ roll love song. Amazingly, the band works in a bit of banjo (or a synth that sounds like a banjo).

Track 7, “Only Child,” is a definite change of pace. It’s a gentle, uplifting ballad with great harmonies and powerful hooks.

Wrapping up our review of Jet Plane and Oxbow is the second-to-the-last song, “Radio Silence.” You’ll enjoy pulsing, thumping electronica and complementary guitar lines with sparse vocals.

The Jet Plane and Oxbow album features a lot of variety, while never departing from the art-rock, melodramatic style that has made Shearwater so popular. This is an album you must listen to.

 

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