With his monumental voice, and taste for monumental subject matter, Jonathan Meiburg creates music with the sad grandeur of ruined palaces or Russian novels. But take your ear off Shearwater’s front man for a moment, if you can, and check out what else is happening here, or not happening.
The rumbly drama you’re listening to is all about the vigorous rhythm section, which seems to have changed places with the rest of the band: the pounding drums and agile bass line are front and center, they’re what Meiburg is singing with, they’re what forms the musical center of the song, while guitar and keyboard play with care and tenderness around the edges. Yes, you’ll hear the guitar and keys in the introduction, daintily, but once the drums kick in at 0:35, “Castaways” swings with its rhythm section’s portentous rumble. I may be imagining it, but I feel as if I am more often hearing the guitarist’s fingers moving on the strings than I am hearing the guitar itself. This is the type of tender detail that helps give the song its poignant depth, above and beyond its more obviously dramatic ambiance.
“Castaways” is the first available song from the band’s forthcoming album, The Golden Archipelago, slated for a February release on Matador Records. Note that Shearwater, from Austin, is a band that still very much believes in the album format. The CD will come with a 50-page booklet, and the vinyl LP is slightly reordered, with two additional songs, allowing for the difference in listening experiences. Note too that Shearwater has twice previously been featured on Fingertips: in March 2008 and May 2005. MP3 via Pitchfork.