By Jeremy Hallock
By James Khubiar
By Observer Staff
By Kelly Dearmore
By Jim Schutze
By Rachel Watts
By Lauren Drewes Daniels
It's no secret that Shearwater frontman Johnathan Meiburg loves birds. His band's namesake is a medium-sized, long-winged seabird, for instance—and then there's the fact that most of Shearwater's albums seem to have birds on their covers. To be fair, Meiburg's no amateur ornithologist; he once gave a lecture on "The Caracaras: Distribution and Ecology of the 'False' Falcons" at a meeting of the Texas Ornithological Society in Austin.
As a graduate student, Meiburg's research found him spending a lot of time on such remote islands as the Falklands, Tierra del Fuego, the Galapagos and others—all of which provide much of the inspiration behind the themes of isolation, grief and wonder that characterize Shearwater's latest release, The Golden Archipelago.
After toiling away for months with the help of local studio ace John Congleton, Meiburg's Austin-based outfit recently released the disc, its most engrossing effort to date. It's also the band's sixth studio album—and third in a trilogy of albums linked by themes of environmental and human decay. It's more than that, though: Archipelago outdoes its predecessors by creating sonic landscapes that match the thrilling dynamics of Shearwater's live shows and pairs them with the group's subtle orchestrations and Meiburg's rich, melodramatic vocals.
And, at this show, Shearwater's bold, big-voiced performance will have some capable support thanks to opening appearances from Baltimore's Wye Oak and Lawrence, Kansas' The Hospital Ships.