Shearwater – The Golden Archipelago (Matador) 15/02/2010

February 19, 2010 by  

Never ones to shy away from their artistry, Shearwater have delivered the final panel of their grand triptych, which includes 2006′s Palo Santo and 2008′s Rook. The Texan outfit certainly take their trade seriously and having seen them live I can vouch for their artistic merit and originality; often they play with instruments that are built buy their own hands and never falter while playing – and it was in a church! But with such a grandiose aesthetic it is easy to become overwhelmed by Shearwater’s own sense of artistry.

The Golden Archipelago is another fine piece of work, but it is certainly not for the casual listener. Meiburg, like Messrs Pallet and Tet, labours over his song-writing until it is perfectly crafted into a truly affecting piece of work. An ethic which is not to be frowned upon, especially when it manifests itself in such an accomplished way.

But, and this is a big but, unless you are prepared to bask in someone else’s artistry you’ll probably find The Golder Archipelago patronising and self important – but then shame on you, you probably listen to The Courteners and think they’re ‘quality’. This album is not one that intentionally tries to overwhelm, but is certainly one which is searching for something much more grand than it actually is. Shearwater’s strength is that they do not necessarily just create convoluted or complicated songs, instead they combine simple elements and turn them it into something truly artistic.

However, when teamed with a deep lying narrative about the world’s islands and Meiburg’s emotional delivery, often the songs become a grandiose step too far. Throughout emotions run rife; from the yearning screams on Black Eyes to to the immediacy of Corridors everything is delivered with visceral passion and breathtaking precision. It is this emotional journey that carries the songs and unfortunately pushes the record into a far too grandiose state.

The Golden Archepelgo is an album too epic to drill down into few hundred words. Instead, it deserves to be listened to in its entirety over an over before you even attempt to unravel it, but unless you have the time or indeed the patience it will just wash over you. And this is the problem, like Pallet, Shearwater clearly write songs suited to their own disposition and no one else’s .

[Rating:3.5]


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