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 New fan question: Which album should I get next? 

Which album should I purchase next?
Winged Life 0%  0%  [ 0 ]
Thieves EP 0%  0%  [ 0 ]
Palo Santo 0%  0%  [ 0 ]
Palo Santo: Expanded Edition 30%  30%  [ 3 ]
Rook 70%  70%  [ 7 ]
The Snow Leopard EP 0%  0%  [ 0 ]
Shearwater Is Enron 0%  0%  [ 0 ]
Excerpts from The Island Arc Live 0%  0%  [ 0 ]
Total votes : 10

 New fan question: Which album should I get next? 
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Joined: 30 Mar 2012 16:09
Posts: 1
Location: Austin, TX
Hello there,

I'm a new Shearwater fan. Less than a couple of month ago, I was at the record store and I picked up The Golden Archipelago based solely on two things: (1) The cover art drew me in, (2) I knew that Shearwater had begun as an off-shoot from Okkervil River (another band I enjoy), but I hadn't given them a proper listen yet. The album amazed me on the first listen, so I got online to see what other albums were available. To my surprise, I saw that there was a new Shearwater album due for release in less than two weeks (Animal Joy)! So, I pre-ordered that one. It arrived and again I was blown away with what I heard.

As much as I would love to just buy everything in the back catalog at once, I currently cannot afford that. So I came here to ask which of the previous albums I should get next (I'm using for my list and assuming anything without a "Purchase" link under the title is currently out-of-print-- if there is anything else not included on this page that is available for purchase please let me know). Also, is there a reason to purchase both the original release of Palo Santo and the extended version (other than for the different cover art)?


P.S. I noticed that in the "Thank Yous" on Animal Joy a Bob Barth is thanked. I've made acquaintance with someone by that name in Austin, TX-- he has a magnificent collection of cacti and succulents in many greenhouses. Is this the same guy that is being thanked?

30 Mar 2012 16:39
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Joined: 16 Jan 2011 22:49
Posts: 157
Location: Detroit, MI, USA
The Golden Archipelago tends to divide people. I love it, but many fans (more casual than those on this board) seem to have been disappointed. If that one works for you, you probably can't go wrong with either Rook or Palo Santo.

Given your budget constraints, though, I would go with the Palo Santo expanded edition. It's full of wonderful things - clocking in at 77 minutes total - and the main album at 44 minutes is more expansive than Rook. The original version of Palo Santo features completely different recordings of half the songs. While they're interesting to hear, the rerecordings are far better to my ears. Think of it as a demo.

Rook is my favorite Shearwater album, but it's only 38 minutes long. To create a world in 38 minutes is impressive, but it will leave you wanting much more.

The Snow Leopard is worth picking up (digitally), but only North Col and the live South Col-Snow Leopard are truly essential. The Island Arc Live is good, but it feels unnatural to listen to extracts from that performance. Shearwater is ENRON is mostly wonderful instrumental stuff, but very different.

Everything before Palo Santo features songs and vocals by Will Sheff and is very different. Pretty much an entirely different animal. It's good stuff, but not as ambitious as the later stuff. Most of their early music is still available digitally. (Their first album may be an exception.) While it may be out of print, you can occasionally find copies at reasonable prices on Amazon etc. I would start with Thieves, which features two of Jonathan Meiburg's best recordings (I Can't Wait and Mountain Laurel).

To complicate matters further...
JM recorded an album with Jamie Stewart of Xiu Xiu called Blue Water White Death. It is very astringent listening, but Jonathan's tracks are quite beautiful even when horrifying. ("Gall" - as in wasps - is a highlight.)

He also recorded a solo "single", Why I Love My Home, in a similar vein.

He also released a solo album called Buteo Buteo, recorded in 2005. It's very spare music, but I find it mesmerizing. The Assassin and Sea Robins evoke my better nightmares. (Note that the last track, Stand Alone, is not listed on that site and is only available with purchase of the album. It's gorgeously lacerating.)

Thor has two solo/collaboration instrumental albums that are great, as well. If you liked Shearwater Is ENRON, you will like these two. Fields of Innards comes with his book An Ocean of Despair, and Thor/Coy comes with A Postapocalyptic Tale of Friendship.

And then there's Whu Gnu...

Re Bob Barth: Given that you live in Shearwaterville, I wouldn't be surprised.

31 Mar 2012 00:37
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Joined: 25 Jan 2012 15:05
Posts: 22
jkade has done his usual thorough review to which I would only add that since you live in Austin, you might watch for Waterloo records twice a year 20% off weekend sale on everything that's not already on sale. It's on right now through Sunday, and if you get on their mailing list they will write you the Tuesday night before and you can get the sale rate Wednesday, before the advertising goes out and the signs go up. There are merits of course to buying directly from the band, but Waterloo also has a worth-watching selection of second-hand that they now conveniently file with the new stuff. I was in there yesterday and saw only the newest things: the Matador PS (which I would recommend getting--the Misra brass is tinny, whether by design or mischance ) and GA, but that's where I picked up the Misra PS and some of the other backlist. Plus, they have Thor's second chapbook, which I've also seen at Domy Books if you're an eastsider.

31 Mar 2012 20:26

Joined: 13 Jul 2006 23:25
Posts: 23
Location: Croton-on-Hudson, NY, USA
In a nutshell: My favorite Shearwater is Palo Santo: Expanded Edition (Disc 1), but Rook is the album that's closest to Archipelago.

Additionally, I too got to Shearwater via Okkervil River, but I now prefer them to Okkervil River.

Life List:

01 Apr 2012 00:03

Joined: 09 Nov 2008 13:14
Posts: 157
Location: San Diego, CA
They all offer something a little different. I think Rook is my favorite, however Winged Life is also fantastic and is very close behind IMHO.

I would personally recommend working backwards chronologically, because that usually makes the smoothest transition, as you can get a feel for the way the band evolved.

Welcome to Shearwater :D

01 Apr 2012 09:35
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Joined: 03 Jun 2008 12:01
Posts: 199
Location: windsor, on
Rook and Palo Santo are my favourites by a significant margin, but I think Rook is the most consistent Shearwater album so I recommend that one.

01 Apr 2012 10:40
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Joined: 05 Oct 2008 13:53
Posts: 103
Location: Decatur GA
I put in my vote for Palo Santo (extended edition) which I think is by far, hands down, the best Shearwater album. The original Palo Santo has a little lower production quality (which I imagine is why when Shearwater got the chance they re-mastered it), but is still excellent, but I would leave that until you had the cash to fill out your collection. In my opinion Palo Santo falls closest to a categorization of Art Rock, so that may affect your decision. I think Rook is a little weaker in general 70% of it is fantastic, and I can't fault someone for liking it better than Palo Santo. There are just a few songs that I'm not crazy about on it. But I also like their new stuff less and less - it sems to be one of those situations where I recognize that it's good, it just doesn't draw me in like PS and Rook.

As for pre-Island Arc, jkade is right on about Thieves having some great songs, especially Mountain Laurel (I actually prefer There's a Mark to I Can't Wait). I have Winged Life and Everybody Makes Mistakes, but never listen to them and think they are more for completists; in fact I'm a little blown away to hear Cedric mention Winged Life in the same breath with the Island Arc albums :wink: . The only other one I have is The Dissolving Room, which I really like and listen to the most of the pre-PS albums. But it definitely is like a different group.

I think you really can't go wrong with PS or Rook. But it's been a while since there's been a discussion of pre-Island Arc music so I'm looking forward to seeing other people's opinions.

p.s. - be sure to save some cash to see them live!

01 Apr 2012 20:47
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Joined: 16 Jan 2011 22:49
Posts: 157
Location: Detroit, MI, USA
Heather: If you don't have OR's The Stand Ins, at least download Lost Coastlines.

If you want to talk about ancient, I bought the Whu Gnu albums a couple months ago. It's a terrible name, and I get the feeling that Jonathan is quite embarrassed about the whole thing, based on his reaction when I mentioned it to him at a concert. But I figured I'd take the chance.

"Walking Spanish" (which was published for the first time in 2009) is a little samey and not particularly interesting. I would recommend it to Meiburg completists only.

"Naked and Without Teeth" is another matter, though. It's nothing like Shearwater, and is fairly straight-ahead 90s alternative. Toad the Wet Sprocket comes to mind, along with many other influences that are not particularly digested. But, you know, it works.

The first impression is of Jonathan's voice. He sounds so confident, full-throated, in control. IT's hard to believe that it's the same guy whose next recordings (on Dissolving Room) sounded so quiet, restrained, even tentative.

But the next thing you notice is how good the songs are. Simple, not particularly original, but really good. There's a traditional folk number that's rocked up, but I think everything else is original. The subject matter isn't as visionary as recent work, but it's not obvious either. Mata Hari is a gleefully malicious song about dangerous pranks in pursuit of justice. Rock & Roll #3 is a great song about an arsonist with the chorus "I wanna set you on fire." Erasmus is about Thomas More's friend. Jesus Blues is about the downside of kicking out an annoying houseguest. &c.

Don't get me wrong, it is juvenilia. I don't think it's better than any of the latter-day Shearwater albums. There are some bum lyrics here and there, a couple tracks don't work for me (Laughing Up Your Sleeve and Cassius Clay), and some of the undigested musical influences (the Knopfleresque guitar on Atlantis particularly) are awkward.

But despite its flaws it's a very enjoyable, emotionally engaging listen, and might acclimate people who don't immediately take to the recent Shearwater albums to Jonathan's voice. And Hey Michel and Mata Hari should have been radio hits.

01 Apr 2012 21:30
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Joined: 09 Nov 2008 13:14
Posts: 157
Location: San Diego, CA
Just in response to cruzichick's astonishment, I should say that as much as I love Winged Life, and even The Dissolving Room, they are, vastly different sounds, and I would again encourage you, Heather, to work your way back to them in the even that the style doesn't suit you as much.

If, like me, you enjoy the folkier, more traditional side of Shearwater (and former member Will Sheff), then you're in for a wonderfully long journey into the beauty of Shearwater.

Also, Palo Santo really is fantastic. It's the first SW album I heard, and I, too, was blown away on first listen. The only reason I may not say it's my favorite as of late is that I seem to have played it to death. With Rook and Winged Life, I just don't get tired of listening to them...

01 Apr 2012 22:56
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