Thursday, May 11th, 2006
It was a year ago tonight that I first discovered Austin’s Shearwater, opening for The Mountain Goats at Lee’s Palace and while they didn’t steal the show from the Goats, they definitely held their own as far as impressing the hell out of me went. From there, I would discover leader Jonathan Meiburg’s other band, one Okkervil River, which would come as close as any other band in the last few years to changing my life.
But this is Shearwater’s post (especially since I sort of half-assed them last year) so back to Palo Santo. While splitting the songwriting duties between Meiburg and Will Sheff on previous Shearwater records allowed for more great songs on a single record, it did take away from the cohesiveness of the albums somewhat, what with Sheff’s songwriting style being more earthy while Meiburg’s compositions were more of the sky. But with Meiburg taking over all songwriting duties with the new record, Palo Santo proves to be all the stronger for having a singular voice. And what a voice – Meiburg’s tenor soars like an angel but also proves willing and able to rage when necessary.
The two sample tracks that Misra has made available are indeed standouts on the record, and yet at the same time they don’t do the record justice. Or more accurately, being presented as individual tracks don’t do the songs justice – within the context of the other songs, as the fortissimo to the other songs’ pianissimo, they’re so much more powerful. Palo Santo demands to be heard as an album, start to finish. Truly, the whole is so much greater than the sum of its parts. The last full length Winged Life and last year’s Thieves EP were strong but had more promise than delivery – finally, Palo Santo pays off in full. Is it too early to start shortlisting albums of the year?
Pitchfork gives Palo Santo some love and Said The Gramophone is also not modest about doleing out praise – they’ve also got another track available to hear. There’s also some more downloadables on their MySpace and at their label.
There’s some touring news but nothing up here yet. Bradley’s Almanac mentions that they’ll be in Boston in September with Magnolia Electric Co so if not for July, we could well be looking at a Toronto date around then. Fingers crossed. They’re actually the only band I saw twice at SxSW but come to think of it, I’ve still never seen them play a full headlining set of their own.
And stepping back a moment to talk Mountain Goats, Largehearted Boy is so kind as to direct us to Standard Bitter Love Songs, a wonderful archive of live Goats shows. Last year’s May show from Toronto isn’t there, but the October one – which I missed – is. There’s some overlap with the Archive.org, er, archives, but there’s no such thing as too much Mountain Goats. Unless you don’t like them, in which case a little is probably too much.
And not quite done with the Shearwater segues, Okkervil River continue to traipse around Europe and their bus driver Michal is playing official tour documentarian via Flickr.
More shows – Cat Power will be at the Danforth Music Hall on July 3 – hmm, timing. Dare I step off a plane at 3 in the afternoon and be at a show by 9? Maybe. Maybe. Elsewhere, The Rakes are at Lee’s Palace on July 4 and July 15 sees a new festival in town – Dog Day Afternoon will feature headliners Metric with The Fiery Furnaces, Holy Fuck, The Secret Machines and Electric 6. This goes down at Historic Fort York and tickets are $40, on sale Saturday. Chart has more info on the fest, which will also be hitting Ottawa and Montreal.
And hey, it’s my birthday. If it’s true that life begins at 30 – and I will admit, 30 was pretty damn good to me – what happens at 31? I hope it’s not gout.
np – Gemma Hayes / The Roads Don’t Love You