Shearwater's most energetic release to date shows the band have come a long way since their sparse, subtle beginnings. On their new album, Jet Plane and Oxbow, mastermind Jonathan Meiburg's applies synth-laden strokes to his songwriting canvas.
The start of this transition was felt on Shearwater's last album of new material, 2012's Animal Joy, where charged beats were at odds with the otherwise downbeat mystique. The sense of velocity and flight, paired with Meiburg's dramatic vocals, delivered with Bowie-like flair here, making Jet Plane and Oxbow a natural progression for Shearwater, and a nice departure from their typical offerings.
Meiburg's orchestration of time and texture marries well with an epic new wave sound on parts of the album, from the delicate cascade of electronic droplets on opener "Prime" to the A-ha-esque magic on "A Long Time Away" and the album's stark single, "Quiet Americans." The uneven, rocky terrain of "Glass Bones" is an ideal merger of Shearwater's old tendencies and new ones, as is "Filaments," which features bursts of retro-industrial interference.
The songs that fail to adopt this new approach are the weakest, but will be a place of refuge for fans less content to veer as far off the beaten path as Shearwater often do here. (Sub Pop)