The slow tempo that starts off “Palo Santo” mixes together Rufus Wainwright, Ben Folds, and John Maher to create something that works well with either the pop set or the individuals that are into challenging music. The simple drumming that begins “Red Sea, Black Sea” is coupled with an electronic sound to approach the album in a fundamentally different way than “La Dame et la Licorne” began the disc. This ability to vary their output is a strength for Shearwater; and by the second half of the track the band has touched on what made them so compelling during the first track.
This sound is actually expanded upon, and a little bit of sixties influence is added to the pot (in much the same way as The Boy Least Likely To). The style of “White Waves” is dominated by the ghostly vocals present, but don’t let that be a turnoff for listeners. The fact is that the band still is extraordinarily balanced; the vocals merely gain dominance for a short period of time while the instruments are still churning. The disc is three-fourths of an hour long, which gives Shearwater more than enough time to create a deep, full story that individuals can latch onto. The band does not achieve that by shocking or thrashing listeners into submission, but by creating music that is soulful and interesting.
All one needs to do is listen to the title track to hear a song that would easily surpass the capability of any movie’s soundtrack. The piano work that opens up “Seventy-four, Seventy-five” obscures the Bowie-like vocals present during the opening strains of the track. By changing the sound of Shearwater, individuals listening in are given another facet of the band to mull over. Shearwater is an always interesting act that can only be given the genre term “rock”; the band is just too diverse to be given a more specific tag. The orchestral feeling to songs like “Seventy-four, Seventy-five” brings in a wider subset of listeners, as individuals that may not appreciate Shearwater’s rock arm will grow to love the band when they hear the subtle intrusions of a more classic type of sound. Shearwater may have a great pedigree (both in their previous albums and bands), but “Palo Santo” is an album that does not need to rest on the successes of previous years. Well worth the purchase cost.
Top Tracks: Nobody, La Dame et la Licorne
Shearwater – Palo Santo / 2006 Misra / 11 Tracks / http://www.jound.com/shearwater / http://www.misrarecords.com / Reviewed 25 May 2006