With their conceptual trilogy behind them, Shearwater’s first record to succeed the ‘Island Arc’ trilogy dives for a simpler song-for-song sense of delivery. It’s the sound of a band in a natural state of transition, much of their chief appeal remaining, while discovering new senses of economy and urgency to their writing.
From the opening faux-title track “Animal Life”, there’s a blend of the familiar: austere arrangements mixing with bandleader Jonathan Meiburg’s stately vocals, but also a shift towards simpler expressions. “Dread Sovereign” possesses a simple three-chord structure but also a grand sweep. Meanwhile, “Immaculate” sounds like the blistering raw rocker they’ve been itching to record.
The upward sweep and beauty of “You As You Were” with its immaculate piano rush, and the spooked rattle of “Insolence” recall their high-brow history, but not without sacrificing the momentum towards becoming a more accessible act.
– Al Newstead