Shearwater - Rooks
Mark Shields 02/06/2008
Everyone has a different way of listening to music, be it on an iPod, through a PC or whilst driving. For me, it is playing the in background while I work on my day job. Normally music sort of filters over me and through a few listens I grow to love a band or an album as it builds in my memory, adding each time I listen to it. Rarely, if ever, am I surprised or stunned by an album, but as I write this, in my flat, sipping a cup of tea, as the sunsets, I haven't stopped listening to this album since the first opening chords of "On the Death of the Waters". This is the first time in a long time that an album has felt so immediate.
The sweeping strings and the finely placed guitar licks swarm in your mind, galloping through massive barren landscapes as shafts of light shine through darkening clouds, as thunder rolls in over the hills. The dischorded piano of title track "Rooks" shivers every single nerve ending in my body as I imagine riders on horse back battling over the love of a beautiful princess. The album never stops delivering punch after punch of simply stunning music.
In a world of chart based music and indie pop so generic it should come with it's own Tesco Value sticker, it's so refreshing to hear that even in dark days when every second single released by a band is the same as their first, such song writing expertise and musicianship can make it onto the main stage allowing it to be heralded as the most incredible revolution, here to carry us to a new place, where music is this beautiful every day.
Instruments range from guitar and piano to world wise woodwind and harps. The musical pallet is satisfied more with each listen and the difficulties in categorising the band continue through out the record - is it rock, is it classical, is it post-rock? Does it matter? The vocals, wistfully twisting lyrics woven about women, fate, nature and horses are the most immersive vocals since Antony and Johnsons which a deeply satisfying comparison can be drawn. The deep brooding low confessional to the high pleading emotional, the words are expertly thrown about the arrangement and wildly fight for prominence but compliment each other completely.
"Century Eyes" speeds things up and the album's fireworks are truly set off, and the intimate guitar work of "I Was a Cloud" pull the album into even more candle lit flickering, and the journey ends with an epic double of "The Snow Leopard" and "The Hunter's Scar" and then back to the beginning again. The album reveals it self every single time that you listen to it, and it asks to be explored, asks to be listened to repeatedly and rewards the listener with even more eye opening music and vocals, darker meanings appear and more instruments come out of the mix and into the mind, and each time something else stuns me. If this album is given a couple of well placed Radio 2 airplays and a good session on Jools Holland the mass buying public who propelled Antony Hegarty into the charts will take this to their heart. Until that happens, and even if it doesn't, smile and take this record into your home and your musical library as it is one of the years most incredible listens.
I have listened to this album repeatedly and it has been a long time since I've been so impressed and inspired by a record. Not since The Mars Volta's 'Deloused in the Comatorium" has an album with such a distinct journey over the album tracks have such amazing individual pieces of music that together stand strong but also can be listened to in isolation. A truly stunning record. I would give it a 6, if I could