Palo Santo

BY Chris WhibbsPublished Jul 1, 2006

It’s amazing what a little success does to a side project. See, Shearwater was originally a collaboration between Jonathan Meiburg and Will Sheff, who is better known as Okkervil River. When the latter’s profile rose, it seems Meiburg was left to his own devices with this project. Luckily, Palo Santo is such a strong statement that any griping should dissipate easily. Skewing more towards majestic pop than anything country, Meiburg, despite the tinge of emo to the lyrics, exudes musical confidence. Take the incredible "Seventy-Four, Seventy-Five” that makes its mark with pounding piano and impassioned vocals. Add in some lovely strings and some sweet harmony and you have one full-blooded and affecting song. Meiburg, though, is also at home in the more plaintive songs, like "Sing, Little Birdie” or the lovingly dramatic opener, "La Dame et la Licorne.” Palo Santo works best when you throw yourself into Meiburg’s intricate compositions and emotions, yet this also makes it somewhat inaccessible. There is no doubt, though, that he is definitely a talent unto himself and he don’t need no stinkin’ Okkervil River.

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