To call Shearwater’s Jet Plane and Oxbow ambitious and expansive seems too easy. Yet, that’s exactly what it is. Jonathan Meiburg plays off of the production and engineering of Danny Reisch in a way that is like a trainer and fighter pushing each other to their collective limits. Despite the fact that this is the fifth album as Shearwater, it feels like a go for broke debut. Factor in the work of film composer Brian Reitzell’s support, and you can see how things shape up the way they do.
Album opener “Prime” surrounds itself in a modern, spacey electronic ambiance that feels like a grand unveiling. Meiburg mentioned that his writing took a slant towards engagement in protest, and you get that feeling as the track feels like the start of a journey, nay, a mission that has been bestowed upon him. As a (dare we say dazzling) scene that evokes snow falling in slow motion takes place, “Quiet Americans” enters with a fist firmly in the air.
Where you find yourself spending a lot of time is somewhere between a dystopian future and state of current urgency. “A Long Time Away” demands something bigger to only discover something much worse when you get your demands. As circumstances spiral out of your control, you’re no longer in possession of your own life. This feeling is heightened on a track like “Filaments” that feels like a montage that leads to a car chase. A lie is being lived, and the woodblock clicks coupled with a baroque key arrangement adds a heightened sense of panic. Eventually your path is cleared on “Glass Bones” after ambling through isolation with a rugged determination. It’s time to indeed return home.
However, hope is not lost in the least. No, that’s clearly not Meiburg’s intention. What’s clear is he, as well as all parties involved, goes for empowerment over hopelessness. The power chords on “Pale Kings” serve as the symbolic breaking of a spell. Sage advice to be aware and conscious of the world around us while valuing that which deserves value sets the path from there. And the soothing balm to aching emotion that is “Only Child” comes at a needed time. Heck, even an aura of Bob Seger and Steve Earle finds itself amidst the landscape of “Wildlife in America.” You’re reminded that a calling isn’t necessarily an easy path, but it is yours to follow.
The closing tracks serve to blend the yin and yang of the album towards a more cohesive existence. “Radio Silence,” the penultimate track, captures a rising sunset that snaps you back into action. With an exquisitely epic intro, Meiburg and company don’t just paint a canvas; they spread a landscape across an area through words. Then, “Stray Light At Cloud Hills” gives a deep, cleansing breath that ushers in a needed peacefulness. Earth has been scoured, and it’s now time to rest. An approaching light appears where silence becomes king.
Jet Plane and Oxbow will be released January 22nd via Sub Pop Records. You can pre-order the album now.
21.01.2016 / By Joey Smith