Winged Life

BY Scott ReidPublished May 1, 2004

Shearwater, a collaboration between Okkervil River's Will Sheff and Kingfisher's Jonathan Meiburg, have come quite a distance since their first collection of morose nostalgia just three years ago. Winged Life is their third record together and their chemistry as songwriters has noticeably improved, even if their aesthetic remains practically unchanged. Expectedly, Winged Life mostly consists of epic art-folk with a heavy lyrical focus on succinct storytelling that sticks much closer to personal turmoil à la Will Oldham than any Bright Eyes-ish pseudo-philosophy. Though a good deal of its songs near or break the five-minute mark, there are a few short poppier numbers thrown in; two of which, "The Convert” and "St. Mary’s Walk,” are probably the record’s best, utilising their ear for a great hook, the kind that makes "My Good Deed” and "Whipping Boy” such standouts, without the lengthy repetition that render "A Makeover” and "Wedding Bells” tests of patience. Meiburg’s vocals, when not stuck in a perma-falsetto, are as strong as they’ve ever been, and when they are able to connect with one of the record’s several great melodies, the results make it awfully easy to ignore a couple of lulls here and there.

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