Flora and fauna have long been Jonathan Meiburg's most beloved fixations. The leader of the Austin-based Shearwater has populated his work with natural imagery of all kinds — especially birds. The band name (which comes from a species of seabird) and the 2004 and 2008 albums Winged Life and Rook are also tributes. From a broader nature-oriented perspective, he's overseen the 2010 record The Golden Archipelago, the 2008 EP The Snow Leopard and who knows how many songs praising and plucking from the subtleties and wonders of the outdoors.
February's Animal Joy continues the course on the imagery front, but the music cracks surprising new ground. The Wolf Parade-like “Breaking the Yearlings” (a reference to young horses) boasts an elastic guitar line and a sense of forward momentum that's worlds apart from the patient, placid Folk typical of Shearwater's pre-Animal discography.
“I wanted it to sound like a band playing,” Meiburg said about the new record in an interview with The Wesleyan Argus. “I wanted a grittiness and an earthiness to it.”
Animal definitely delivers on these claims; emphasizing percussion and ditching more dainty orchestral elements probably also helped with this. If you're new to Shearwater and need a bit more convincing to give them a shot, consider their links to two of Indie Rock's most venerable labels — they used to be on Matador, while Animal Joy is out on Sub Pop.
SHEARWATER performs Wednesday, May 9 with St. Vincent at Bogart's in Corryville. Buy tickets, check out performance times and get venue details here.