Shearwater – ‘Animal Joy’

Vocals like a sorrowing angel

Jonathan Meiburg sings like a sorrowing angel looking down on a tortured earth. Once an outlet for songs too quiet for Texan indie rockers Okkervil River, Shearwater crafted a grand setting for this jewel with their Island Arc trilogy, but their eighth album drags his beatific baritone down to a flesh-and-blood struggle. ‘Immaculate’ pulses with pantingly eager riffs, while ‘Dread Sovereign’’s growly-guitared dip into so-wrong-so-right lust is intoxicating. It’s not as unified as previous records, but with fewer meanders towards the mainstream and more of the electronic adventures of last year’s freebie ‘Shearwater Is Enron’, ‘Animal Joy’ may herald a bold new incarnation.

Emily Mackay