Since Jonathan Meiburg left Okkervil River and turned Shearwater into a full-time venture, his albums with the band have taken on a dramatic eloquence. Although a reliance on inviting, beguiling melodies offers a foothold for the uninitiated, the folksy banjo plucks found on earlier Shearwater releases have hardened into staccato piano attacks and thundercloud string arrangements. The eleven songs on this year's moody The Golden Archipelago exhibit a genre-blurring mix of classical tropes, acoustic folk and art rock. Meiburg sings like a choirboy who has spurned his catechism. His voice carries a fearless tonal clarity that is unmatched in indie-dom, both because of his quaking falsetto and, as on the raging Archipelago track "Corridors," his strident, battle-call delivery. Shearwater songs rarely make for easy listening, but that mutual uneasiness creates moments of fertile drama and cathartic release. Damien Jurado, who just released the Saint Bartlett LP, opens the show.
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