Upon the first few listens of Shearwater's Rook, I wanted to synch up the tracks to the cartoon version of Watership Down or The Last Unicorn, ala Dark Side of the Moon/Wizard of Oz. Rook is an album worth immersing yourself in, front to back. The Austin-based indie band (which began as a side project of the equally dramatic Okkervil River) has created a vast lyrical narrative that is darkly beautiful and visually apocalyptical. Opening with the lines "From the wreck of the ark to the fading day of our star," lead singer Jonathan Meiburg's voice oscillates between choirboy delicate and forceful, while complex arrangements consisting of strings, harp, piano and bugle tell the story of a world gone wrong. The rockin' title track describes scenes more ominous than a Hitchcock film. The song "Century Eyes" warns: "You are not the last of this house, or the first to go over the side." And "I Was A Cloud" holds no empathy for the naivety of our sad hero with lines like, "Your frantic waving did not provoke feeling/But this little one/Steady your wings now sparrow."
The narrative is packed with full moons, crashing waves, "angels on holiday" and dying birds, but somehow Shearwater keeps this imagery fresh and vital - which says a lot about the songwriting and the execution. Atmospheric like Radiohead and cinematic like Neil Young's Greendale, Rook is the perfect album (if it weren't for the cost of fossil fuels) for a nighttime drive into the desert. - Kaycee Anseth-Townsend