2006's Palo Santo marked a bit of landmark for Shearwater with Jonathan Meiburg taking center stage as lead vocalist and the result was a much fuller sound that was way more ambitious than any of the bands previous work. The followup Rook has much work to do to keep up with its predecessor and despite a few bumps I'm pleased to report a worthy successor has taken up the crown.
The arresting cover image depicts a dark figure of a man with arms outstretched and cloaked head to foot in a swarm of rooks, His face is unrecognizable through the mass of feathered bodies and as you make your way down his solemn frame birds burst through his coat and emerge from pockets. He stands on a barren shoreline and the pallet for this scene is somber and dark with no hint of colour. While listening to the 10 tracks within, this image starts to take on new resonance and meaning. Rook is very much concerned with man's intersection with the natural world in all its facets from hunter to prey to the eventual extinction of species including mankind itself. Much of the record seems to come from a place so barren and wild that the very existence of human beings appears as nothing more than a haunting memory. Much like Palo Santo the music here can shift violently from a frail whisper to a calamitous boom and with Meiburg's unmistakable guidance Rook becomes a record of great visual power.
Though this record starts and finishes with two fine songs they don't seem like the right choices and had they been put in a different order Rook would work better as a complete concept. On The Death Of The Waters breathes life into the record with the faintest of breaths. Meiburg's vocals are as grey and as still as a winters day until the crashing waters change the scene in the form of a cacophonous orchestra. The violence of the two halves do seem to jar this early on in the record and it's not until the warmth of the opening guitar chords of the next track the we really start to settle in. Rooks is a glorious piece of work and one that we have come to expect from this band of late. With a steady drum pace and glistening musical rhythm section Meiburg's sweet tones drift gently throughout but show signs of teeth at just the right point. For me this feels like the album opener and it heads up a run of songs that form the spinal chord of this album and it's from these five songs that the structure and strength radiate.
Leviathan, Bound is a slow building song based around a gentle rhythm that ends in magnificent strings and ever increasing percussion subtleties while Home Life employs a similar structure originating from crackling drum taps and working towards an orchestral middle section that takes flight amid the soaring vocals of their captain. The music simmers like brooding weather patterns and changes direction with a glorious unpredictability, rising and falling, swirling and trickling.
Lost Boys struts proudly to a marching rhythm and triumphant horns tapering off slowly to the boiling might of Century Eyes. This is the first time the guitars have been given a proper run and they beat their fists with an energy of a force that has been kept under wraps for too long. Unfortunately the momentum that has been gathering ever since Rooks is somewhat dampened by some of the later tracks. I Was A Cloud seems to revisit this bands past at a time when the record was bravely conquering new territory and South Col's conceptual insistence might play to the theme of this album but slows things right down here.
Thankfully the shear scale of The Snow Leopard gathers these stragglers up in its all-encompassing arms and carries them away. It's often the case that a voice's true nature is found in its extremities and though Meiburg's vocal range is certainly extensive it is often held back like a force too powerful to unleash. Well there are fantastic glimpses of it here and it is only matched by the titanic mariachi horns that rise from the depths to accompany it. It's a colossal song and should really end the record. It feels like the band are giving it their all in a last chance show of power and the gentle melody of The Hunter's Star, achingly beautiful though it is, whispers in its wake like something of an after thought. It hurts to criticize as this song, had it appeared anywhere else in the record, would pierce you to the core with it's melancholy. But if song-order is the only thing that tries to drag this down then so be it, for at the beating heart of this album are some of the richest musical moments this band have created.
4th Jun 2008 - Tumblr3.5
Palo Santo (Expanded Edition)
The Stand Ins
The Snow Leopard EP
Text book indie, literally days out of Sundance. Interesting until it gets a bit too wacky.
9th Feb 2020Read more 3 star reviews
Strong slice of 90s skate nostalgia. Slow and subtle.
8th Feb 2020Read more 3.5 star reviews
Considered character study that strays into pretentiousness here and there.
25th Jan 2020Read more 3 star reviews
Enthusiasticly directed sequence of unrelated musical set pieces.
31st Dec 2019Read more 3 star reviews
Yet another biggest-battle-yet, with more than a passing nod to BTTF2.
30th Dec 2019Read more 3 star reviews
Thoughtfully assembled montage doc.
30th Dec 2019Read more 3.5 star reviews
Decent origin story, with charm and some 90s nostalgia.
27th Dec 2019Read more 3 star reviews
The Rise of Skywalker
Freestyle bouillabaisse with all the ingredients, but no chef.
27th Dec 2019Read more 3 star reviews
Quintessential indie movie ...funded by Netflix. Great perfs, lovely camera work and solid direction.
22nd Dec 2019Read more 4 star reviews
Superior modern thriller. Smart script and accomplished direction.
15th Dec 2019Read more 4 star reviews
Long, slow, thoroughly enjoyable loose jam through Scorsese/DeNiro/Pacino/Pesci/Keitel’s greatest hits.
2nd Dec 2019Read more 4 star reviews
Batman via Scorsese, in impeccably art directed, neatly packaged origin story.
28th Nov 2019Read more 4 star reviews
Surprisingly strong sequel that gets going after a convoluted start.
24th Nov 2019Read more 3 star reviews
Casual drama from Clint Eastwood, with the man himself anchoring things through a charming turn.
16th Nov 2019Read more 3 star reviews
Luscious period drama. Beautifully put together - like Wolf Hall+.
3rd Nov 2019Read more 3.5 star reviews
Throw away Breaking Bad expansion piece with little tension or jeopardy.
13th Oct 2019Read more 2.5 star reviews
Stylish but incoherent Cheney biopic, hampered by another one-note turn from Bale.
5th Oct 2019Read more 3 star reviews
Mind numbingingly basic biopic, saved by the nostalgia for the music and moments.
5th Oct 2019Read more 2 star reviews
Interesting doc following the lives of 3 teens becoming adults, tied together by skateboarding.
28th Sep 2019Read more 3 star reviews
Painful, occasionally uplifting viewing with a grief stricken central performance.
28th Sep 2019Read more 3.5 star reviews
Into the Spider-Verse
Stylish, trippy concept animated superhero flick with some great moments.
21st Sep 2019Read more 3.5 star reviews
Young adult upgrade, with just enough Conchords humour to keep it enjoyable.
22nd Aug 2019Read more 2.5 star reviews
Decent Aussie surf drama, that nostalgically investigates the soul of surfing before losing its way a little.
14th Aug 2019Read more 3.5 star reviews
Somewhat unremarkable, but enjoyable music drama. Bit long.
13th Jul 2019Read more 3.5 star reviews
Predictably grim seaside coming-of-age indie. Decent enough, but you’ve seen it before
13th Jul 2019Read more 3 star reviews
Stylish sequel, hampered in places by some authentic 1960s pacing.
30th Jun 2019Read more 3.5 star reviews
Out-there kids fable with an old school Tim Burton vibe.
16th Jun 2019Read more 3 star reviews
Rock solid 90s style indie movie. Beautifully assembled at all levels.
31st May 2019Read more 4 star reviews
Fairly one-sided Police doc about the seemingly dislikeable trio.
7th May 2019Read more 2.5 star reviews
Decent, but slightly muddled parenting indie.
28th Apr 2019Read more 3 star reviews
Forgettable re-imagining of a not totally unforgettable Disney classic.
27th Apr 2019Read more 3.5 star reviews
Solid stop-motion animation that’s light on plot, but high on charm.
12th Apr 2019Read more 2.5 star reviews
Surprisingly stylish sequel that drops the ball in classic straight-to-VHS style halfway through.
6th Apr 2019Read more 3 star reviews
Opaque Alaskan thriller from Jeremy Saulnier, with little regard for convention.
1st Apr 2019Read more 3 star reviews
Low key indie spin on Rambo, as a father and daughter try and live off grid.
28th Mar 2019Read more 3.5 star reviews
Fun biopic that runs out of steam about when the band did.
25th Mar 2019Read more 3 star reviews
A diminished remake of Deadpool 1. Occasional LOLs.
25th Mar 2019Read more 2.5 star reviews
High concept sci-fi that stretches its concept a little thin.
19th Mar 2019Read more 3 star reviews
Unremarkable, cliche-ridden actioner. Utterly lacking in suspense.
17th Mar 2019Read more 2.5 star reviews
A disjointed patchwork of homages, nods and rip offs from dozens of other movies, with little to offer of its own.
11th Mar 2019Read more 2 star reviews
Laborious, high-concept alien horror. While the concept is good, the beats are all well telegraphed.
2nd Mar 2019Read more 3 star reviews
Witty, if a little obvious, post-meta rom-com.
1st Mar 2019Read more 3 star reviews
The Second Part
It’s literally a re-hash of all the themes of the first one with a few less jokes.
23rd Feb 2019Read more 3 star reviews
Slight, but sometime engaging iPhone feature.
26th Jan 2019Read more 3 star reviews
Decent modern spin on Mary Poppins. Bit uneven, but a nice soundtrack helps things along.
20th Jan 2019Read more 3.5 star reviews
Bog standard entry into The-Rock-action-movie genre. As much personality as a computer game.
3rd Jan 2019Read more 3 star reviews
This time it’s really, really serious. Seriously.
27th Dec 2018Read more 3 star reviews
It’s a musical ...but slick direction makes it just about bearable.
24th Dec 2018Read more 3 star reviews
Pop-culture bouillabaisse, hampered by numerous terrible accents.
24th Dec 2018Read more 3.5 star reviews