Shearwater – ‘The Golden Archipelago’ (Matador)
The Golden Archipelago is the third in a series that began with Palo Santo and continued with the excellent Rook in 2008, looking at themes of the environment and humans’ impact on nature. Songwriter Jonathan Meiburg – he of a voice that holds its’ own with the likes of Jeff Buckley – has camped in many places as a researcher, and this impacts on not just lyrical themes but also on the album’s sound. Opening track ‘Meridian’ starts of with the strain of the Bikini Atoll anthem, sung by Bikinians in exile after nuclear tests left their island uninhabitable.
As always, there are those who will find the idea of such things being used on a rock record contemptible, pretentious and that this makes Meiburg another one of the Bono/Chris Martin ‘wear your heart on your sleeve’ school.That’s their loss. Like its’ predecessor, this is an album that begs for repeated playing. It’s quite sad in tone -definitely more an autumn/winter record than a summer one, but none the less for that. It’s also quite a pastoral record, think John Foxx’s The Garden, Pink Floyd circa Ummagumma/Atom Heart Mother/Meddle, or even Virginia Astley’s From Gardens Where We Feel Secure.
While it’s perhaps not as immediate as Rook, it certainly holds its’ own up against its’ successor, particularly when heading into the second play of the day alone (as I am). Also, in this day and age of cherry-picking, whilst there are certain standout tracks -‘Black Eyes’ ‘Castaways’ and ‘An Insular Life’ it isn’t an album that you will want just a few tracks by; it’s almost iPod proof, you will want to hear and listen to this album in its’ entirety.
One of the best albums so far this year.
Shearwater -‘Castaways.’ mp3
Shearwater -‘Black Eyes.’ mp3
And because it is so good, Rooks from Rook:
Shearwater -‘Rooks.’ mp3
The Golden Archipelago is released on February 15 on Matador.