Rook

Menacing, grandiose, romantic, apocalyptic: The music of Shearwater is no summertime fling. The four-piece band is the brainchild of ornithologist and Austin transplant Jonathan Meiburg, who delivers his strange, arresting imagery in a voice—part crooning, part ghostly falsetto—that evokes an anguished Bryan Ferry. Shearwater’s music is typified by a sense of urgency, yet the band often works in hushed tones embellished by vibes, piano, hammer dulcimer, woodwinds, and harp that are then turned on their end with discordant explosions of guitar rock. Rook (Matador), the group’s fifth and most fully realized album, clocks in at a lean 35 minutes, and it wastes no time showing all that the band can do. The first two songs alone are a stylistic tour de force: “On the Death of the Waters” begins with a whisper, then awakens with a typhoonlike power chord; “Rook” features a pounding beat alongside whooping vocals and a mariachi trumpet. Meiburg’s lyrics are obtuse and bird-obsessed and seemingly hint at the impending extinction of the human race. Heavy going? Yeah, but original and positively riveting.

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