Shearwater – Rook

In my opinion, the best album of the year. Shearwater – Rook. Epic, beautiful, and complex. It grew on me rather quickly after I heard it for the first time and it continues to grow with each listen. In the style of Talk Talk’s Spirit of Eden, it lends itself to epic landscapes and textures while not becoming overwhelming.

I’m not sure where, but I recall reading a review of this album claiming it to be a rip off of the aforementioned Talk Talk experimental album. I immediately dismissed this accusation only to remember it when going back to listen to Sprit of Eden recently. It raises an interesting question: where do we draw the line between homage, influence, and plagiarism? I think, a simple solution could come from asking whether the music (in this example) acknowledges the existence of the previous work. Praise or criticism aside, I feel that the lack of shame and self-awareness of similarities by default leads the new music away from plagiarism. As weak an argument as it is, I also think that time plays a factor as well. In this case, Spirit of Eden was released exactly 20 years prior to Rook. It’s then safe to assume that the creative input that came from Shearwater most likely has influence of the Talk Talk album if not some deep seeded affection for the album from years of enjoyment (much like many who appreciate Spirit of Eden). An example of the opposite would be the more recent ‘butt-rock’ movement. Bands like Nickleback have had many copy paste bands to follow (none worth mentioning including Nickleback… *dry-heave). These all came out at the same time with songs that follow a single equation (once again, all so terrible, it makes me shudder).

Regardless, I also marvel at the growth and backgrounds of the bands. Talk Talk started as a forgettable synth-pop band that sort of fit the mold of the 80’s. Through the records you can sort of hear the creative minds ticking in their heads. They took a big leap forward in recording Spirit of Eden by letting all of that experimental musing spill out in one record. Shearwater has had a similar growth pattern. It started as a side project where Will Sheff could put down some of ballads that wouldn’t really work with Okkervil River. As the project sort of started to grow on its own, Will sort of started to fade into the background (assumptions I make only from listening to Shearwater’s back catalogue). The sound of Rook started to trickle in to various songs on the earlier albums. Polo Santo really started to have its own new sound. That sound that we would only catch glistens of in earlier work. Rook to me is the apex. They got it down.

It’s like watching something amazing blossom in nature. Shearwater grows and evolves in a single steady direction. It’s really quite exciting to watch. Get this album. Play loudly in a dark room and close your eyes. You can feel the textures and see an amazing display as Shearwater takes your senses places that sound familiar yet new. If you hear the bonus song ‘North Col’, it will hit you like a brick wall as it doesn’t fit on the album at all. Rather than being annoyed it really demonstrates what I have been preaching over the years of the concept of an album.

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