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coverpic flag US - Texas - Full Moon 165 - 02/28/10

The Golden Archipelago
Matador / Playground

The indie rock / psych folk band Shearwater were formed in Austin, Texas in 2001 by the former Okkervil River members Jonathan Meiburg and Will Sheff. Sheff has lately left the band, that now, in addition to songwriter Meiburg mainly features his ex-wife Kimberly Burke (upright bass) and Thor Harris (drums and vibraphone) The Golden Archiapelago is their fifth album, the second on Matador Records.

The Golden Archipelago continues the journey Shearwater started on Palo Santo and Rook, by moving towards the solitary human mind as well as touching environmental issues. But where earlier albums just pitched below the surface, and stayed ashore, The Golden Archipelago is more ambitious, more risk taking, and therefore so much more intriguing. The album opens with the first strains of the anthem of Bikini Atoll, sung by Bikinians in exile, on the fragile ballad "Meridian". A pointed reminder of what humans are capable of doing to the nature. In this picture; an island. And the imagery, and analogy, of islands continues throughout The Golden Archipelago. (Not surprising, hence the naming) It's the natural island, the desolated, the conquered and the jubilant rising of a newborn isle. And there is of course the human (as an) island.

Shearwater move with the brightest tones, and the (dis)harmonic emotions made of the haunting shadows in a Kate Bushian soundscape. It's overwhelmingly romantic, slightly pompous and utterly beautiful. Expressing the nostalgic and lush back-to- nature view of an 18thcentury novel. Just with slightly more edge, and less innocence.

After the opening with "Meridian", The Golden Archipelago leaps straight into the majestic, suggestive darkness of "Black Eyes", the manic motions of "Landscapes At Speed", and the calm scenic "Hidden Lakes". Turning in dissonance on the charming noise on "Corridors". Seemingly slowing down with the tender "God Made Me" and the mesmerizing lost-love-story of "Castaways", before the peak of the album; the triumphant "Uniforms", which both celebrates and rejects the isolation an island offers. And, finally, the low-toned closure "Missing Island". All done with such a consuming rich poetic texture in every note, that The Golden Archipelago on a less good day could have overflowed itself. But thankfully Shearwater obviously had some very good days by the sea making this sublime album.

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