Friday, April 30, 2010

Shearwater at Spaceland

Jonathan Meiburg wryly pointed out "Last time we played Los Angeles, we played at the Forum". Even though Meiburg was telling the truth, it seemed almost comical as Meiburg stood on the Spaceland stage to those who didn't catch Shearwater open for Coldplay in 2008. Shearwater is in the midst of touring to support their latest release, The Golden Archipelago.

Wye Oak

Wye Oak captivated my attention early with their minimal setup but expansive sound. Besides being named after the Maryland state tree, Wye Oak consists of Andy Stack pulling double duty on drums and keyboards while Jenn Wasner handles the vocals and guitars. Merge Records recently released their new EP My Neighbor/My Creator. Members of Shearwater came out to assist Wye Oak with trumpet and saxophone during the scratchy guitars of "My Neighbor" carried by Wasner's yearning vocals.

"Family Glue" from their first album, If Children was dedicated to their sound guy and tour manager with the slow churning build up of guitars and drums escalating to the point of an noisy sound eruption before folding back into itself for an introspective ending. The shimmering guitars of "I Hope You Die" were impressive but Wasner's vocals are the centerpiece of the song with her repeating "I hope you die". Another highlight was their cover of The Kinks "Strangers" with an assist from Jonathan Meiburg. I will definitely be looking out for their new full length album when it comes out.

It is with great irony that a pentagram is drawn into their exceedingly high drum cymbal, because the music of Shearwater can only be described as heavenly. Fronted by avid ornithologist Jonathan Meiburg, Shearwater kicked things off with the urgent piano stabs of "Black Eyes" from their glacial third album The Golden Archipelago. The tropical percussion of "Landscape at Speed" was hypnotic as Meiburg added delicate sheets of metallic guitar squalls to the building tension.

"Castaways" has Meiburg stretching his vocals far and wide in part with the undulating waves of music underneath. It is easy to see how this type of music can transport you to far away places with the right set of headphones and a good record player. Fingerpicked reverb notes of "Meridian" conjured more images of water as the members of Shearwater banged on their instruments for extra murky sounds. The water imagery did not let up with the aqua themed "White Waves" but the overall volume was cranked up with a collision of cymbals and dirty guitars. Amazingly, Meiburg's voice still rose above it all.

After some twiddling of one of his guitar amplifier knobs, "God Made Me" toned things down slightly with Kimberly Burke navigating an upright bass. "Corridors" was a call to arms with its military stomp and washes of noise. Meiburg returned to the keyboards for "Hidden Lakes" as percussionist Thor Harris took up the oboe.

After quickly dispensing "An Insular Life", the opening notes of "Rooks" elicited a number of cheers from the appreciative crowd. Members of Wye Oak returned throughout the evening by helping out with percussion on "Century Eyes". "I Was A Cloud", "Seventy-Four, Seventy Five" closed out their main set. Using a capo on his guitar, "Hail, Mary" perfectly sealed the evening festivities as Shearwater waved goodbye.

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