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Originally conceived as a one-off collaboration between Okkervil River's Will Sheff and Kingfisher's Jonathan Meiburg, Shearwater continues the tradition of detailed, reflective songwriting set by classic artists like Nick Drake and Leonard Cohen and contemporary songwriters such as Bill Callahan and Will Oldham. After Sheff's departure in 2006, Meiburg became the group's de facto leader. His distinctive, ecologically aligned storytelling and commanding voice helped propel the group into the upper echelons of the indie rock scene. Shearwater's sound also changed, with acclaimed efforts like Rook (2008), Animal Joy (2012), Jet Plane and Oxbow (2016), and the Great Awakening (2022) adopting a more muscular, though no less melodic art-rock swagger. The group formed in Austin, Texas after Sheff and Meiburg had known each other for just a week, with the idea that the duo wanted to make an album called The Dissolving Room. The pair exchanged songwriting ideas through e-mail and were so pleased with the results that they decided to make their project into a permanent touring affair along with making bass player Kim Burke an official member. The spare, yet cinematic Dissolving Room was released in early 2001 by the Grey Flat imprint. The following year, Shearwater released the like-minded Everybody Makes Mistakes, and their third album, the more indie rock-oriented Winged Life, followed in 2004. Meiburg's influence over the direction of the band steadily increased over the years, and this trend continued on the band's fourth release, 2006's critically acclaimed Palo Santo, which would be the last Shearwater outing for Sheff. The group moved from Misra to Matador that year, making way for the release of an expanded edition of Palo Santo in 2007. The powerful and streamlined Rook arrived in 2008, followed by the dreamy and bucolic Golden Archipelago in 2010. Shearwater joined the Sub Pop roster for the wide-ranging Animal Joy, released in February 2012, a more direct, immediate offering featuring guest musicians such as Andy Stack (Wye Oak) and Scott Brackett (Murder by Death). Fellow Travelers, a collection of ten covers of songs from bands that Shearwater has shared the stage with, including Folk Implosion, Xiu Xiu, and Coldplay, arrived the following year. In early 2016 the band dropped their hard-hitting third outing for Sub Pop, the '80s-leaning Jet Plane and Oxbow, which echoed the sonic grandeur of Tears for Fears, Talk Talk, and Peter Gabriel. During the tour for the record, Meiburg became close with the opening act, Cross Record, a duo comprised of Emily Cross and Dan Duszynski. Shortly after that, the trio formed the side project Loma and released their evocative, eponymous Sub Pop debut in 2018. A second Loma effort, Don't Shy Away, appeared in 2020. Two years later, Shearwater unveiled The Great Awakening. Issued through their own Polyborus label, the 11-song set struck a balance between the group's melancholic earlier material and the dense, melodic rock of later efforts.
© Heather Phares /TiVo
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