Don't say you weren't warned. All this icy detachment that has been part of the indie rock scene, cocooning a decade of boys who are at the prime of their hormonal exigencies in folded arms over ironic t-shirts, reducing the only visual sign one ones excitement to one's belt and shoes, is coming to a close. Antony and the Johnsons is in the canon, Xiu Xiu makes you feel all those feelings so damn much, the corpse of Scott Walker has been resurrected once again to spook us the fuck out and, metal is cool again, so you have an outlet to play air guitar in public. Add to this growing movement the latest superb disc from Shearwater - part Ziggy Stardust, part Tim Buckley, all awesome.
Shearwater is a side project of the side-project festooned Okkervil River, but on Palo Santo, the multitalented Jonathan Meiburg EKG to his own heart, mind and spleen to generate this nuanced, delicate yet convulsive record. He wails like the girls from my high school talent shows channeling a pre-crack Whitney Houston on a number of tracks like the piano-activated "Seventy Four, Seventy Five" and adopts a sweet knowing tone on the infectious "Nobody" and gets all Spider-from_mars in one on "White Waves." He out-tenders the likes of Devendra Banhart (and if you follow me, you know I am of the pro-Devendra camp) on the twinkling acoustic numbers (especially the title track and the cosmic lullaby that is "Sing, Little Birdie")
A number of the critics rightfully lauding this thing point to Jeff Buckley's bottle rocket, but the good money is really on Tim Buckley's baroque pop messes and master pieces of the seventies if one needs to hang a wagon on this horse. But regardless of what was left spinning on Meiberg's turntable as he hatched this record in the glorious recesses of his dreams, it's a magnificent record, one that hits on all fronts, the Appollonian (well, maybe not, it's a little lo-fi for admission to that temple, but it is immaculately crafted if not recorded) and the Dionysian, with just enough of Pan-fired danger in it to put the taste of blood and flesh in your mouth. Will it be the gateway drug to twitchy hipsters dying to feel the big feelings again? Who knows? All I know is that its one of few records I've heard this year that make me wanna grab some folks by the collar and say you gotta hear this.
Alex V. Cook listens to everything and writes about most of it. His latest book, the snappily titled Louisiana Saturday Night: Looking for a Good Time in South Louisiana's Juke Joints, Honky-Tonks, and Dance Halls is an odyssey from the backwoods bars and small-town dives to the swampside dance halls and converted clapboard barns of a Louisiana Saturday Night. Don't leave Heathrow without it. His first book Darkness Racket and Twang is available from SideCartel. The full effect can be had at alex v cook.com