I’ve always found Americana a slightly tricky proposition, not least because of difficulty in defining what it is. But whilst it’s always felt fairly authentic to me, too often it’s also been a little dull.
I do think that the latest LP from Shearwater falls within the broad definition of Americana but even though it’s an emusic punt, I’m delighted to say that ‘Animal Joy’ is not a dull record at all.
This is the first time I’ve been exposed to Shearwater but research reveals that ‘Animal Joy’ is their seventh (or eighth) full length release. So it’s just a case of jumping in and seeing what I find.
Whilst I occasionally find the vocals a little histrionic, ‘Animal Joy’ seems poised somewhere between indie rock and more traditional Americana.
The blindingly obvious comparison for me is the National but whereas the National records do tend to include some great songs I tend to find the overall impression is of a sameness with many of the songs blending into each other.
On ‘Animal Joy’ Shearwater demonstrate a range that, for me, outshines the National. Apparently originally an outlet for quieter songs that’s no longer true of Shearwater. They can rock things up substantially on the likes of ‘Breaking The Yearlings’ and ‘Immaculate’.
There’s slow build epic tendencies too on ‘Dread Sovereign’ and particularly ‘Insolence’. But overall it comes over to me as a strong consistent record.
I can quite often get to the heart of a record after 3 or 4 plays. That’s not been the case with ‘Animal Joy’ but after half a dozen plays I’ve just about concluded that there’s not a truly great song on here. But I do find myself liking pretty much every song on the record a great deal and, as a consequence, being drawn back to it again and again.
Here’s a video for ‘You As You Were'(presumably) one of the singles from the record – which actually reminds me of Frightened Rabbit a bit:
‘Animal Joy’ is available in all good record shops and online in the usual places.