5/7 Shearwater @ The Parish

Last Friday, our incredible photo lady Mary Rehak made her way to The Parish to check out a set by Hospital Ships, Wye Oak, and our very own Shearwater.  Mary claims to have seen these bands more than any living person, but that didn’t stop her from wanting to see them yet again.  After the jump you can check out a short review and some fancy photos from Mary.

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Shearwater @ The Parish (5/7)

Date 5/7/10
Location The Parish
Doors 8pm
Tickets $13 @ Frontgate

One of Austin’s finest and hottest indie acts Shearwater are playing one of their highly anticipated shows at The Parish tomorrow night.  Openers are solid here too with Wye Oak and Hospital Ships both there for your enjoyment.  Should be a good one.

[audio: http://austintownhall.com/wp-content/uploads/2010/01/shearwater_black_eyes.mp3]

Download: Shearwater – Black Eyes [MP3]

Shearwater – The Golden Archipelago

Rating: ★★★★ ·

Two years ago Jonathan Meiburg released Rook under his project, Shearwater; it was an operatic endeavor, which came across forceful in moments, while resting quietly in others.  His band returns with The Golden Archipelago, along with an abbreviated dossier, unless you opt to shell out the bucks for the completed dossier.  An album such as this is not something to take lightly; it’s full of depth and precision, all of which successfully push the listener into the realm of masterpiece as created by Meiburg and associates.

“Meridian” is a tricky album opener, especially for those mindful of the band’s past releases, Rook in particular.  Slowly the song builds upon the quietest strum of guitar matched perfectly with Jonathan’s falsetto.  The tone is somewhat ominous, especially with echoing vocals in the background and the orchestral touches.  You expect a crash of some sort, similar to that exhibited on the first track of Rook, but instead, the song sort of fizzles to an end suddenly.  It pushes you into “Black Eyes,” which is perhaps the loudest of the tracks on this collection.

Once you arrive at “Landscape at Speed” you begin to arrive at core of the album.  Consistent rim shots provide a hollow percussive element to barely audible strumming.  Instead of focusing this number on the guitar work, Shearwater fills out the space with various snippets of noise.  It’s the sort of restraint demonstrated in the work of fellow Austinites, Spoon; these sorts of approaches tend to keep listeners in a holding pattern of sorts, asking you to indulge yourself in the cinematic quality of the record.

However, songs like “God Made Me” are precisely what make everything Meiburg does relevant to the broader spectrum of music listeners.  His strong vocal performance in front of string instruments begs you to hold onto every emotion within, only to release it during the semi-chorus that leaves his vocals feeling somewhat scratchy like his one-time bandmate from Okkervil River, Will Sheff.  The barrage of banging pianos only heightens such a release, yet he manages to let you rest quietly as the song fades into thin air. Finally, he seems to have taken his songwriting as seriously as he’s taken the orchestration of his previous albums.

Those looking for an album constructed of singles and hits might not find such numbers here, at least not apparent to the naked ear, so to speak. “Castaways” has a pounding drum beat that illustrates that Shearwater is more than just a project of Meiburg.  But, his vocals cresting and crashing warrant the song one of the most accessible on the album, though time spent with The Golden Archipelago finds all these songs as such.

Perhaps the best summation of this album is the second to last song, “Uniforms,” existing in a dense world brought on relative noise before kicking in with powerful vocals.  Just as the vocals signal for bombast, they’re immediately pulled back in favor of a more gentle confrontation with the listener.  At  2.5 minutes into the song, you’re greeted with the complete ensemble of the band smashing everything into a raucous moment, all before the song peters out.  With that, you find yourself at the end of an album that seems to revel in the contrasting experiences of quite and loud; it’s a trick used by many in the past, yet never done in such an operatic manner as we find here on The Golden Archipelago.


Download: Shearwater – Castaways [MP3]

Holy Fiction – Hours From It


Rating: ★★★ · ·

Somewhere on the long stretch of HWY 290 between Houston and Austin, Holy Fiction was formed from the ashes of various other bands who’d been playing in their respective local scenes.   After countless demos and honing of their own musical voice, the band is now set to release Hours From It, their debut LP.

Turning on Hours From It, you’re bound to recognize Evan Lecker’s distinctive voice.  It dwells somewhere in the land between The Twilight Sad and Shearwater, though we’ll lean more towards the latter since the band hails from Texas.  You can’t help but ignore the comparison, however, as the way he carefully extends certain syllables and seems to hold notes just a second longer than most define a great portion of the album.

It seems that the story of Hours From It relies upon sweeping movements and accentuated elements.  Take “Song 10,” which holds onto a somber emotion, but it’s fleshed out by orchestral touches and keyboard notes in all the right places.  Such light notes take what would seem an ordinary song and carry the tune unto another level entirely.  These are insights into the careful planning the group spend in crafting their debut.

The title track, “Hours From It,” provides listeners with the opportunity to hear what the band may sound like in a live setting, or on future recordings.  It’s a grittier tune, with the vocals coming across less pristine, which actually does a lot for the emotive quality of the song itself.  Then, just as the song seems to fade away, it begins in an entirely new direction, but with the same unrefined sound alluded to earlier.  Holy Fiction backs that up by closing the album with another similar track, “Yes They Were Here.”  As unfortunate as this may sound, Lecker’s vocals are at times too pristine.  Just a little bit of scratchiness makes him all the more enchanting, and that is precisely what the last two album tracks offer listeners.  The music, too, benefits from this dynamic, as the vocals no longer seem to be simply hiding within the song; they stick out a lot more, giving the lyrics a bit more definition.

As debuts go, Holy Fiction has to be pleased with the work they’ve put into Hours From It. The record shows careful thought in the way the songs were pieced together, which demonstrates that this won’t be the last we hear from this band.  All the clarity in the instruments creates vibrant soundscapes that rise and fall with Evan Lecker’s voice, leaving listeners yearning for more.  Keep your eyes on the road ahead, as this shows a bright future for HF.


Download: Holy Fiction – Song 10 [MP3]

More New Music From Shearwater

shearwater_sit1Earlier today Shearwater dropped this new track “Black Eyes” from their upcoming LP The Golden Archipelago.  This is prior to the slated February 23rd release on Matador Records.  We also just received a promo copy of the new album in our inbox today and this thing is an epic adventure to say the least.  I suggest picking up a copy when physical copies are available.

[audio: http://austintownhall.com/wp-content/uploads/2010/01/shearwater_black_eyes.mp3]

Download: Shearwater – Black Eyes [MP3]

New Tunes from Shearwater

20061222shearwaterAustin’s Shearwater are preparing for the release of their third album, The Golden Archipelago, in 2010 on Matador Records.  We’re sure that it will be something you will all swoon over, at least we know that we will be doing so, as we are avid fans of the group.  Maybe this will be the album that makes them a name everyone is talking about…they should be bigger than Grizzly Bear. And check out Matador’s site for some cool pre-order deals!


Download: Shearwater – Castaways [MP3]

Yellow Bike Project 12th Anny @ Red 7 (5/21)

ybp_logo_400pxAustin’s most unique non-profit, The Yellow Bike Project, are celebrating 12 great years of existence by putting on a party/show at Red 7 on Thursday night.  The lineup is stacked with talent and includes ATH faves Shearwater headlining along with Theatre Fire, Red Cortez, Buttercup, and the Yellow Bike Project Gospel Choir.  Shearwater don’t have any other Austin dates planned for the summer so you better see them while you can!  Show starts at 8pm.

[audio: http://austintownhall.com/wp-content/uploads/2008/11/shearwater_the_snow_leopard.mp3]

 Download: Shearwater – The Snow Leopard [MP3]

Neko Case @ Stubbs (3/31)

nekocaseStubb’s has a great lineup on Tuesday featuring headliner Neko Case and beloved Austin band Shearwater opening.  Doors for this show are at 7:30 and tickets are on sale now for $20.  Neko Case is currently touring in support of her new album Middle Cyclone which features the single “Some People Got a Lot of Nerve”.

[audio: http://austintownhall.com/wp-content/uploads/2009/03/neko-case-people-got-a-lotta-nerve.mp3]

Download: Neko Case – People Got a Lot of Nerve [MP3]

3/13 Balmorhea at Ballet Austin

balmorhea09Releasing a CD is bound to be something special for those involved, so Austin band Balmorhea needed something special for the release of their new album, All is Wild, All is Silent.  The band chose to use the acoustics of Ballet Austin, offering the most intimate atmosphere possible to its fans.  Intimate settings can play out in various ways, as we will see shortly.  Follow the jump to read our full show review.

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