Shearwater

Jet Plane and Oxbow

Sub Pop

Jan 12, 2016 Web Exclusive Bookmark and Share


To signal its new musical direction, Shearwater updated its Facebook page with a photo of a gray DeLorean fitted with a flux capacitor. Nowadays, it seems as if every musician on the planet is time traveling to the 1980s for inspiration. Jet Plane and Oxbow takes its cues from '80s-era David Bowie, Talking Heads, and Peter Gabriel. Jonathan Meiburg's art-rock group even limited itself to playing gear from that periodfrom Korg synths to Rototom drumsbut they've avoided sounding like Austin's answer to Kajagoogoo. Opening track "Prime" melds ripples of an Arp Odyssey synthesizer with exclamations of hammered dulcimer to startling effect. Even more surprising? Lead single "Quiet Americans" sounds unlike any other Shearwater song thanks to its keyboard squiggles and fat dead snare sound. The song's lyrics excoriate myopic Americans who "piss on the world below." Indeed, Jet Plane and Oxbow plays like a heart-broken letter to the U.S. On "Pale Kings," Meiburg laments, "You know how sometimes/You're so tired of the country/Its poptones and its pale kings/And its fences like knives/But in the same breath/Your heart breaks with the feeling/With love and with grieving."

The knock on Shearwater has always been that they're too serious for their own good. But Meiburg mostly sounds like he's having a blast. That's especially true of album highlight "Filaments." Driven by an afro-funk groove indebted to Brian Eno and David Byrne's My Life in the Bush of Ghosts, Meiburg joins the voice of Wye Oak's Jenn Wasner for a thrilling chorus that emerges from a musical blind curve. Producer Danny Reisch's Pointillistic approach to sonic detail helps bolster Meiburg's strongest melodies to date. Far from retro, Jet Plane and Oxbow lives up to its Back to the Future billing. (www.shearwatermusic.com)

Author rating: 8.5/10

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