Drake’s Take: New Releases 06.03.08

This week Drake weighs in on the latest from Shearwater, (one my most anticipated releases of 2008), as well the debut LP from local boys made good, Fleet Foxes. – ed.

Drake’s Take: New Releases 06.03.08

What a difference a week makes.

This first week of June is full of delectable delights for the ears, as a good three or four of them will undoubtably see some year end list action. Because I’m particularly fond of the new ornithological treat from Shearwater, many releases get the shaft, but I only have so many words in me per day. Other fine releases include the debut from Seattle’s own Fleet Foxes, a double-album featuring Will Johnson’s two bands Centro-Matic and South San Gabriel, the latest from Aimee Mann (featured last week,) The Futureheads, Oppenheimer, Ladytron and Sloan (in Rhapsody a week early!) If things work out, I’ll touch on a couple more in the coming days.

Playlist: New Releases 06.03.08

Album: Shearwater – Rook

Shearwater - RookThe bird-crazy band Shearwater (a type of seabird) are like ornithological troubadours, even usurping Andrew Bird and his winged whistling as the avian du jour. Jonathan Meiburg (ex-Okkervil River) writes songs that soar, keeping to their bird-theme, and Rook (a kind of crow,) much like Arcade Fire’s more inspirational moments. But I think a more apt comparison for this album would be the transcendental moments of Jeremy Enigk‘s solo debut album Return Of The Frog Queen, with it’s dynamics and myth-based storytelling.

Rook, for it’s part, starts off very dark, with a boat being overtaken by the sea (“On the Death of the Waters”) and what sounds like an apocalypse of sorts with the title track (“Rooks”). A rook is often believed to be a symbol of death, so the opening line of “Rooks” is rather frightening: “rooks laid in piles by the side of the road, they were crashing into the aerials, hanging from the laundry lines…” Couple that with “we’ll sleep until the world of man in paralyzed” and it has me thinking of the end of times. Along those lines, Rook is an interesting choice of bird for this album, as it’s kind of the shearwater’s land-loving cousin (shearwaters, outside of breeding season, live in the open waters, some scavenging fishing boats for food). It’s this balance of sea, air and land that encompasses the release, and the third song “Leviathan, Bound” [this is probably my favorite track on the album -ed.] suggests that the album is about the ecological battles our population is currently losing. Man’s battle against the Leviathon is often portrayed as a battle to have reign over the earth, and the hunter that appears here and later in “The Hunter’s Star” appears a doomed metaphor for mankind, who finds himself in “a world that will never return again, and no sound escapes from the night to come.”

As a point of emphasis, the eerie instrumental “South Col” is accompanied by a passage from former French envoy to the court of Kabul, Rene Dollot, describing the stark landscape in Afghanistan:

The lunar landscapes of the Hindu Kush,
as if borrowed from prehistory,
seem still to wait for the arrival of the animal world,
or perhaps to announce it’s end.

I’ll admit that I came late to the Shearwater bandwagon — too late, for instance, to even chime in on the brilliance of their previous album Palo Santo — in part due to the theatricality of Meiburg’s voice, which straddles the difficult point between a stylized Scott Walker and a more histrionic Antony Hegarty (Antony and the Johnsons). It takes some getting used to for some, but when it all finally clicks, the songs take to the sky.

Lyric Sheet (pdf)
Download: “Rooks” [mp3]
Download: “White Winter Hymnal” [mp3]

Album: Fleet Foxes – Fleet Foxes

Fleet Foxes - Fleet FoxesOur very own Fleet Foxes have made quite the stir leading up to this excellent debut, which is kind of funny given that their very nature is very anti ‘stir.’ Much of their sound has a freak folk base, but far more reliant on pop’s basic structures than any current entity in that tragically named genre. Between the reverb and the incredible vocal harmonies, it’s hard to not play the Pet Sounds card, but the folky guitar strums send us in the direction of CSN&Y. Actually Akron/Family meets early My Morning Jacket is the first modern comparisons I could think of, continuing with the lazy critic game of connect-the-dots (that I find myself often employing late on a Tuesday afternoon,) but the point being that they sound like a seasoned, fully-formed band in their songwriting and sound, not that of a typical debut. Band Of Horses‘ debut sounded similarly polished, so perhaps it’s little surprise that Phil Ek, the producer BOH’s releases, is the man twiddling the knobs here. He’s now the man to go to for reverb in the NW, that’s for sure. All that reverb contributes to a pastoral feel for Fleet Foxes, and as far as a lazy summer day listen, you can’t do better than this on your back porch in the coming months. The chorus to “Tiger Mountain Peasant Song” in particular has me already longing for some lemonade. If it would only stop raining…

Free album stream from AOL

More on the radar this week:
Centro-Matic/South San Gabriel – Dual Hawks / Free album stream from AOL
The Futureheads – This is Not the World / “Broke Up The Time” [mp3]
Aimee Mann – @#%&*! Smilers / Free album stream from AOL (Reviewed last week)
Sloan – Parallel Play (In Rhapsody a week early!)
Oppenheimer – Take the Whole Midrange and Boost It / “Stephen McCauley for President” [mp3]
Ladytron – Velocifero / “Black Cat” [mp3]
The Cool Kids – The Bake Sale / Free album stream from AOL
Radiohead – Greatest Hits (AOL album stream)
Ed Harcourt – The Beautiful Lie
Harvey Milk – Life… The Best Game in Town
The Virgins – The Virgins / Free album stream from AOL
Daptone 7″ Singles Collection, Vol. 2
Bitter:Sweet – Drama
The Gang – Zero Hits / “Sea So” [mp3]
Weezer – Weezer (The Red Album)
Midnight Juggernauts – Dystopia
The Pinker Tones – Wild Animals
Paper Rival – Dialog / Free album stream from AOL
Gary Numan – Pure
The Traveling Wilburys – The Traveling Wilburys – Vol 1 / The Traveling Wilburys – Vol 3
Minus the Bear – They Make Beer Commercials Like This