Music News

Shearwater: The Golden Archipelago, in "Nothing Not New"

Artist: Shearwater
Title: The Golden Archipelago
Release date: February 23
Label: Matador

Thanks to the several people who wrote to me over the weekend after reading the music feature I wrote for the print edition of this week's New Times. The feedback was mostly positively (this time, only one dude called me a pretentious a-hole. Baby steps, right?) and a few folks seemed intrigued by the project we're undertaking. 

One guy, under the nom de blog Marimbadog, was so inspired by the piece -- in which I essentially refer to myself as neither music critic nor music fan; just music listener (gee, maybe I am a pretentious a-hole) -- he started up a blog called "Nothing Not Old." He calls himself an amateur critic who tries to best to keep up with all the new music coming out, but is going to listen only to the music of his peak listening years, 1979-1984. Wow, some of my very favorite records came out back then (Big Black's first three EPs, X's early records, Joe Jackson's first four records, Paul Collins' Beat, The Plimsouls, Hoodoo Gurus, Joan Jett's best records, Sonic Youth's first two records, Cheap Trick, Buzzcocks, The Jam, the list goes on). Talk about musical comfort food . . . Anyway, good luck, Marimbadog. Enjoy the past. The present will be waiting for you on the other side.

Speaking of the present, let's get to today's "Nothing Not New" entry. It's a new concept album by a band called Shearwater on the mostly reliable Matador record label. The Austin band was formed by a couple of guys from Okkervil River, an indie band that people tell me are kind of a big deal. 

The Golden Archipelago is a lush, orchestral record full of dramatics. And Shearwater immediately differentiates themselves thanks to the singer, who has a unique, high tenor and never misses an opportunity for theatricality. Hence, it's a very serious-sounding record. And why shouldn't it be? It's a concept record about the destruction of the environment.

Fans of unconventional indie rock, like Beach House or Midlake, may like Shearwater. This record is relatively easy to listen to, and there is no shortage of ambitious musical ideas on The Golden Archipelago, but, to me, it sounds like the soundtrack to an IMAX film about the Galapagos Islands or something. I suppose that could be the effect Shearwater is after. But who's the audience for this kind of music? If you can tell me, I'd love to know . . .

Best song: "Black Eyes"
Rotation: Low
Deja Vu: Midlake (but with energy, emotion, musicality, and ideas)
I'd rather listen to: Something I wouldn't hear on NatGeo
Grade: D+

The "Nothing Not New" Archives

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Jay Bennett
Contact: Jay Bennett