Animal Life

Posted in Music on April 11th, 2012 by Tom

I feel stupid not writing about this album sooner. It was the first thing I heard this year that I got really passionate about listening to.

The naming of the album is well-chosen. There is a very primal edge to Jonathan Meiburg’s vocals that sells the feel of the album. It’s decidedly dark in places, with aggressively slammed piano parts on tracks that build from dirge-like pacing on ‘Insolence’, or the throaty howl of the chorus on ‘Breaking of the Yearlings’, but soars brilliantly on tracks like ‘Animal Life’ and ‘You As You Were‘.

‘You As You Were’
[ mp3 ♫ ]

The anxious tempo of the piano and the kickdrum thrusts us through the seasonal imagery provided by the lyrics, the energy behind the it building all the time to the finishing iterations of “I’m leaving the life.” It’s the kind of song that makes you want to go out and just… achieve something.

I’m unfamiliar with any of Shearwater’s past work, though I’ve read Animal Life is something of a departure. I’ll say this: it suits them. The best point of departure I could think of would be maybe Mumford and Sons…? In that they have that underlying Appalachian-foothills-desperation thing going on in places, sure, but their big epic songs are cut from a completely different cloth.

There is a surprising lack of cohesion between the tracks. ‘You As You Were’ abruptly ends, leading to the super-slow ‘Insolence’, which itself dumps you right into the guitar-shredding ‘Immaculate’, having the effect of someone punching the gas and the break at song-length intervals. Normally this sort of things bugs me, but the songs are all so interesting, and the constant discrete alteration of pacing keeps you from getting to complacent in your listening.

A microcosm of this effect is readily seen in ‘Pushing The River‘:

‘Pushing The River’
[ mp3 ♫ ]

I think everyone will probably have a different take on Animal Joy as far as where the best tracks are. What there should be little disagreement about is that it’s a moody, emotive record that unifies a panoply of styles into a brilliant album of music.

Shearwater – Animal Joy



Posted in Music on April 9th, 2012 by Tom

I went ahead and decided to give this record a spin, just because there was a lot of blog chatter about it. For some stupid reason, I had categorized School of Seven Bells in a pretty small box of “bands whose name has ‘bells’ in it.” Not having been as enamored with Sleigh Bells Treats, I had some subconscious barrier between myself and SVIIB.

Stupid, I know.

Once I was past that, I found a lot to love. I’ve heard the genre labeled “nu-gaze”, which I can only guess is a splicing of new wave synth/beats and… whatever the hell shoegaze brings to the party. Whatever you feel like calling it thought, it’s fantastic.

The music itself is based in a very ethereal, tonal foundation, which effortlessly can pick up a nearly dance-inducing drive (as in ‘Lafaye‘) or lull you in and out of consciousness (as in the excellent supporting track, ‘Reappear’).

[ mp3 ♫ ]

The texture of this track, intricate without becoming cluttered, makes it especially good. It introduces the protagonist of the album, Lafaye, who interacts throughout the record with “the ghosts that surround her life,” providing an interesting framework upon which a lot of really go music is structured.

Also worth noting about Ghostory is that the duo of Deheza and Curtis are not afraid to let their songs really evolve. The first single, and an excellent track at that, ‘The Night’, opens the album at just under 4 minutes long. Every other song is longer than this, including my dark-horse candidate for favorite track ‘Low Times“.

‘Low Times’
[ mp3 ♫ ]

The chorus, “Low, low, low, low, low, low, low, low, low, low, low- times”descends first in pitch for the first few ‘lows’, which is kindof intuitive, but midway through, the pitch starts to come back up. Saying ‘low’ while you go higher seemed a crafty and subtle move to me. Not to mention the song just has a lot of restrained energy to it that explodes at the end with the transition to the “p-r-e-d-a-t-o-r” part of the the song.

The latter half of the record is quite solid, with the other standout tracks being the accusatory, confrontationally epic ‘Scavenger’, and the tour-de-force of ‘White Wind’.

Easily this record is one of the best things I’ve heard this year, and I expect I won’t get tired of it any time soon. I’m pleasantly surprised with how approachable I feel the record is, given both its ambition and its deviation from typical formulae of other work in adjacent genres.

School of Seven Bells – Ghostory


Single Shot: Eyeoneye

Posted in Music on April 5th, 2012 by Tom

I don’t know what this song is about, at all. To be honest, I’m still not quite sure where I stand on Andrew Bird’s latest effort, Break It Yourself. That said, the namesake of the album, ‘Eyeoneye‘ has been popping into my head at weird times.

Also I’ve been really bad about posting, so this seems as good of a reason as any to get back in the game.

[ mp3 ♫ ]

You’ve done the impossible now
Took yourself apart
Made yourself invulnerable
No one can break your heart
So you break it yourself

Those lyrics that lead into the first chorus are what really caught my ear. So many songs, in an genre, deal with heartbreak. The notion that you’d voluntarily bring that upon yourself is such a curious idea that I can’t help but try and figure this song out.

I could really use some help for what “eyeoneye” means, other than a neat bit of wordplay if forms, rhyming with “reion-ion-ion-ionize”. Seriously, anyone. Chime in. I need Andrew Bird explained to me.

Andrew Bird – ‘Eyeoneye’