Shearwater: Fellow Travelers (Sub Pop) - album review | Under the Radar Magazine Under the Radar | Music Blog for the Indie Music Magazine
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Issue #48 - November/December 2013 - HAIMShearwater

Fellow Travelers

Sub Pop

Nov 27, 2013 Shearwater Bookmark and Share

Fellow Travelers is perhaps more interesting as a concept than as a record. Its premise is pretty damn neat: Shearwater recorded covers of songs by bands they’d toured with in the past, while collaborating in the studio with members of some of those bands. (The hitch: any artists involved couldn’t play on their own songs.) Shearwater succeeds in putting their distinct twist on each trackJonathan Meiburg’s unmistakable voice helps a lot with thatbut naturally, some reinterpretations work better than others. A low-key cover of Wye Oak’s “Mary is Mary” is a prime example of this project working; Jesca Hoop provides backing vocals for this abbreviated version. Clinic join Meiburg for an impassioned take on The Baptist Generals’ “Fucked Up Life,” complementing acoustic guitar plucks with drum machines and a soaring organ climax. On the other hand, St. Vincent’s “Cheerleader” is re-imagined as a dirty country-rock number; it doesn’t transition so smoothly. Other artists covered include Xiu Xiu, Coldplay, and Folk Implosion.

The execution on the record isn’t consistently strong enough to live up to its cool gimmick, and as many tracks fall flat as pass muster. A large part of Shearwater’s appeal lies in their dramatic, sweeping compositions, which are either lost on or don’t fit somebody else’s material. It’s telling that the record’s best song isn’t a cover: “A Wake for the Minotaur” was written by Meiburg to be sung as a duet with Sharon Van Etten, to be included on 2012’s Animal Joy, but schedules didn’t allow them to record it until a year later; it’ll be the most familiar-sounding song of the bunch for their fans. Fellow Travelers was never intended as more than a stopgap release between records; that said, it’s hardly as essential as any of Shearwater’s self-penned albums. (

Author rating: 5/10

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