Shearwater
Fellow Travelers


2.9
good

Review

by Jacob Royal STAFF
December 9th, 2013 | 32 replies


Release Date: 11/26/2013 | Tracklist

Review Summary: And for the first time, Shearwater sound like mere passengers to the music

You never really hear about great cover albums because they're inherently hard to relate to. When an artist finds music they value enough to want to recreate, it’s from love and admiration-- they want to show others why they got to be so damned fascinated with it in the first place. But when I hear someone else’s take on a song, it may not be something I can understand-- hell, it may be something that only truly makes sense in their minds. I’m not one to question their experiences with such a song, but I’m not one to be able to share that moment with them, either-- because it was the sum of their experiences with it, which had nothing to do with me. So upon hearing Fellow Travelers, I can’t help but wonder what Shearwater hears in the songs at hand, because I’m sure at a loss.

At least it's clear they’re special to the group. Every song on Fellow Travelers was originally written by one of the artists with which Shearwater has toured in the last couple of years, and that list spans from Coldplay to Clinic, from Xiu Xiu to St. Vincent. In other words this record pulls from all kinds of music, because that’s what concerts with Shearwater were like. Whether packed to the brim with soulful folk music or huge pop tunes, the shows were all about melodies that nobody could forget. And so with that in mind, Shearwater constructed Fellow Travelers to cater to that common aim, to rechannel their travel buddies’ anthems into something important to them.

What’s vital to Shearwater isn’t exactly so to the indie-rock group’s fans, though, which is where Fellow Travelers finds itself in a sticky situation. Even if a cover album can be immaculately crafted, its contents may ring hollow to the majority of its listeners just because they don’t quite understand where it’s all coming from. On this record it’s evident Shearwater loves this music-- they have a great time providing it for us in this new context, but it doesn’t quite sit as well as it should. For starters, a few of the songs here were massive pop cuts when they were first written (Coldplay’s “Hurts Like Heaven”, for starters,) and these songs lose their significance when channeled into Shearwater’s minimalist approach as a band. “Hurts Like Heaven” worked because its production did, from its loud drums to its shimmering guitarwork. The song’s melody is nothing special, but it’s presented in a way that dresses it up as new and exciting-- something a hushed acoustic Shearwater cover won’t pick up on. Likewise, St. Vincent’s “Cheerleader” sounds sterile with a capital “s” because the song has none of the characteristics that made it so killer in the first place. The animated Annie Clark has been replaced with the subtle Jonathan Meiburg-- a move that dilutes the song’s eccentricity. Songs like these work because of their charismatic creators, and so it was inevitable that magic would be lost in translation.

At least the band’s rendition of David Thomas Broughton’s “Ambiguity” shines here, working with soothing ambiance and serene vocals from Meiburg. The track, only a little over three minutes, is condensed from Broughton’s six-plus, and yet it feels far more personable this way. Here it’s the kind of tune Shearwater could’ve made, and yet it came from a place that sounds more intimate, from a man only armed with a guitar. See, this is the kind of music Shearwater plays best-- it gives the band the space they need. It is a damned shame most of Fellow Travelers opposes this idea, with songs that are defined too rigidly for the Texan reimaginists. They’re the songs Shearwater has heard countless times in the last few years, yes, so it’s no surprise they’d want to share the tunes with us. But we haven’t lived those experiences, we haven’t been to those gigs, so there’s only so much to Fellow Travelers we can truly appreciate.



Recent reviews by this author
Stolas AllomaternalThe Contortionist Language
Maybeshewill Fair YouthFallujah The Flesh Prevails
Every Time I Die From Parts UnknownBaths Ocean Death
user ratings (11)
Chart.
2.8
good

Comments:Add a Comment 
Omaha
Staff Reviewer
December 9th 2013


10361 Comments

Album Rating: 2.9

at least these songs are great

"Ambiguity" - http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=hPxyYpVATDE

"I Luv the Valley OH!"(official video) - http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=pHIOasVuYc0

klap
Staff Reviewer
December 9th 2013


10545 Comments


glad you finally got around to this

Digging: Jessie Ware - Tough Love

Omaha
Staff Reviewer
December 9th 2013


10361 Comments

Album Rating: 2.9

yeah man. a bit hard to write about-- haven't reviewed in awhile.

have you heard much Shearwater rudy?

klap
Staff Reviewer
December 9th 2013


10545 Comments


yeah i have all their albums. not a huge fan tho

Omaha
Staff Reviewer
December 9th 2013


10361 Comments

Album Rating: 2.9

aww. I personally love the Golden Archipelago & Rooks one-two punch

Xenophanes
Emeritus
December 9th 2013


10620 Comments


Don't really like this band and this sounds like a trainwreck. I chimed in to say awesome review though.

Omaha
Staff Reviewer
December 9th 2013


10361 Comments

Album Rating: 2.9

thanks man! =] feels a bit drab by my standards, but i'll be writing more this break so i'm sure it'll come more naturally to me then.

Cygnatti
December 9th 2013


21874 Comments


Really gr8 review. I wanna pos it. >:/

Digging: Autechre - Chiastic Slide

Omaha
Staff Reviewer
December 9th 2013


10361 Comments

Album Rating: 2.9

thanks man, someone just needs to bump me down to user status so you'll be able to again ;]

Cygnatti
December 9th 2013


21874 Comments


Agreed.
Omaha4User2014

Make it happen pls.

Omaha
Staff Reviewer
December 9th 2013


10361 Comments

Album Rating: 2.9

OmahaUser94?

Green Baron
December 9th 2013


20240 Comments


OmahaStylee14

could get into some songs by this band, last album was pretty good

Gyromania
December 9th 2013


15967 Comments


but i love shearwater

Omaha
Staff Reviewer
December 9th 2013


10361 Comments

Album Rating: 2.9

oh me too Matt! we both love Shearwater the same amount, man

AtomicWaste
Staff Reviewer
December 9th 2013


2029 Comments


Meh on this album. Archipelago was awesome, though. Good review, brah.

Digging: Damascus - When Last We Met

Irving
Staff Reviewer
December 9th 2013


7318 Comments


Actually Jacob, this review was really good. One of my favourites of yours, I'd say. My only niggle with it is that it may slightly overmention the fact that Shearwater really likes these songs you guys.

Digging: Portishead - Dummy

Omaha
Staff Reviewer
December 9th 2013


10361 Comments

Album Rating: 2.9

hehe, thanks dudes. and Irving, I think you may be into something... I'll take a look in a bit. cheers < 3

Thompson, this just makes me more excited for the band's big true follow-up.

CaptainDooRight
December 10th 2013


30249 Comments


that art's quite interesting

wowyouresohxc
December 10th 2013


94 Comments


I really wanted this to be better.

Omaha
Staff Reviewer
December 10th 2013


10361 Comments

Album Rating: 2.9

it's tough bc I have no doubt this is the album they wanted to make. but at the same time, I get very little out of a record like this, and I definitely don't think I'm the only one. makes me realize that catering to the fans can definitely sometimes be a good thing.

but they'll have their next full-length out soon enough, which is bound to be great.



You have to be logged in to post a comment. Login | Create a Profile





FAQ // STAFF & CONTRIBUTORS // SITE FORUM // CONTACT US

Bands: A B C D E F G H I J K L M N O P Q R S T U V W X Y Z


Site Copyright 2005-2014 Sputnikmusic.com
All Album Reviews Displayed With Permission of Authors | Privacy Policy