It seems that having gone their separate ways Jonathan Melburg and Okkervile River's Will Sheff have become two of the hardest working and most prolific songwriters on the Americana underground scene. This year saw the release of Rook, Shearwaters mighty and deceptively impressive follow up to Palo Santo and just as the year draws to a close they sneak in this EP, The Snow Leopard. Named after probably the most stunning track on Rook, this EP rounds up many of the non-album B sides and giveaway tracks from the year and also some quite striking recordings from various radio sessions over the summer.
The title track just swells with a power that has become, over the last 2 albums, an expected element in this bands sound. Melburgs sweet voice quivers with all the vulnerability of a flickering flame but then rises with the music to below with dazzling confidence. There's a glimmer of madness in his voice as it reaches its peak only to fall to the floor and quiver once more. Much of this EP demonstrates Melburgs ability paralise the listener with an intimacy that can both freeze you with an icy chill and breath through you with unbelievable warmth. His radio K session performance of Rook, a song that flexes the muscles of this songwriter is stripped of it's strength and whispered with lonely acoustic accompaniment to great effect. Two of the tracks are covers, So Bad, originally by Baby Dee and Henry Lee, a traditional American folk song. They sit perfectly amongst the original Shearwater material and altogether form yet another valuable entry in this bands catalogue. They are an endlessly rewarding group who are really starting to master the many facets of their sound.