Shearwater is no stranger to high concept rock music. Through its first three albums, frontman Jonathan Meiburg built an ambitious trilogy around his interests in nature and science, and ornithology, masterfully marrying indie rock with prog rock grandiosity. Then, with 2012’s Animal Joy, the band totally shifted, downsizing in scope, yet crafting lean and distorted rockers.
So it’s not all that surprising that Meiburg’s next move was another conceptual album: On each of Fellow Travelers‘ ten songs, Meiburg and company pays tribute to an artist with whom the band has toured.
The lineup of artists covered — Xiu Xiu, Folk Implosion, Sharon Van Etten, St. Vincent, Wye Oak — reads like a who’s who of like-minded bands all capable of the same sort of moody and deeply melodic songs that Shearwater does so well. It’s always a fascinating exercise to hear a band get into the head of another musician’s songs — and when delivered by Meiburg’s distinctive operatic voice, songs like “I Luv The Valley OH!!” and even Coldplay’s “Hurts Like Heaven” soar to new heights.
Meiburg has said that doing this covers record serves as something of a transition, a bridge between it’s previous album and whatever Shearwater has in store next. For a band this talented and unique, that is an enticing prospect.