Review Summary: I wanna get close, I wanna get closer
From the top, then: Animal Joy
starts with the sort of restless energy that would persuade us of anything. We talk of great songs with their rise and fall, but “Animal Life” is a race to the finish with no intelligent pacing, propelled ignorantly and wonderfully by all the things that sound boring to describe but exhilarating to behold. It has the simplest of guitar lines and the greatest of climaxes. Thick percussion cuts through the softness, the distortion of guitars gear up destructively, but only with as much respect for the song’s process as possible. “Animal Life” never strays from its melodic argument, not once does it get disorientating as we move forward, but most importantly, it all comes to us so easily. “Animal Life” is a song of insistence, a desire to be now
for us, whatever that present is. The exhilaration that Animal Joy
gives us in this moment speaks the joy found in listening to something and getting lost in its world instantly. It’s not for me to persuade you: quit your job to it or run through the countryside to it. You have to let “Animal Life” come close to you.
This non-journalistic nonsense is to say, obviously, that my love for Animal Joy
is insanely young and comes from a place of ignorant bliss: I’ve had it in my life for not more than a few days, and my experience of Shearwater is none, if anything coveted only by a long debt I’ve stored in the music of sister band Okkervil River. If there was a reason for seeking Meiburg’s band out, it came like the last gasp moment in an aging phase in my musical life, worried that I was losing my connection with my favourite band, and more worried I’d feel emotionally ruined without them. I think now that Will Sheff’s absence from Animal Joy
adds to the youthful exuberance I feel on my first listen of Shearwater, though, something that makes the neck-grabbing of this album even more shocking and exciting. Animal Joy
clutches to you- you know, regardless of who you
are (I’d say it universalises its shi
t, but that feels like a common cliché. It does, though)- and tells you to sort your life out on more than one occasion, the most shattering life-lesson coming on “Immaculate,” Shearwater rudely hurling their way towards your gut, chugging their guitars all flushed and manly and, I think I already said, holding you by your neck: “Johnny get a hold of your life!” I guess, in a way, the reviews of Animal Joy
are right to compare Shearwater to Okkervil River’s weepy violence, if only to distinguish between the two: Sheff is resigned to this life of love, content to say woe is me a hundred times over in different poetic ways, but from my first listen of Meiburg’s song-writing, I see songs like “Animal Life” and “Open Your Houses” carrying themselves urgently, commands and all. There are cries to open up houses and sort lives out on Animal Joy
. There is something to be done.
Moments like these pulled me to Shearwater the instant I heard them, and it’s easy to see where this immediate joy comes from: Animal Joy
is an album built entirely on intentions, to fix and to chase, “surging at the blood’s parameter” as Meiburg would put it himself. Moving really, really, fast, even in its contemplative, sluggish moment; “Insolence” is a confusing, fragmented walk of life for this album, but it is nonetheless moving the album into the newly-tread. For me, Animal Joy
works in commands and youth, two things I wonder if we fear in this generation of musicians; we are drawn to ambiguity and the long-haul, the ability to say an album will be where it is in ten years, to have an album relate to its great event rather than be it. To have an instant connection with something, that’s ignorance. Animal Joy
is ignorance, beautiful and restless ignorance. But for its new fond feeling and its quick animal stride, it offers something that we can all be swept up in, and all from the moment “Animal Life” gets close.