OK, I'm willing to eat my words here: Shearwater's Rook is an incredible album. I kind of hate the term 'grower', but that's clearly what it is. I just needed to learn the contours of the music better before I really could hear what it's doing. I've been listening to it a lot these past few days, and it's fucking epic. The piano lines sound, in places, like EST (RIP!), the guitar lines churn like Lake Michigan in a thunderstorm, and the little spikes of various reed instruments throughout give me tingles. All that being said, however, I still do think Meiburg over relies on his falsetto. I just have trouble with the preciousness of it. Trouble is, I get the sense that he thinks it's one of his selling points as a singer/musician, that he thinks he's really bowling us over when he pulls it out. But, I just don't hear it as an instrument in the same way, say, Justin Vernon's is. When Vernon uses his, I hear genuine pain. When Meiburg uses his, I hear an overeducated young man emoting with maximum self-consciousness. Meiburg's a very fine singer; his full-throated howls are resonant and exciting. But there's something slightly, unfortunately one-dimensional about his falsetto, kind of like getting out of the pool and wrapping yourself in a soggy towel. But anyway. I'm glad to have been proven wrong about the album; it's become a good companion for me (esp. with my previously mentioned fetish for listening to a full tracklisting in one sitting on the train in the morning).
Oh yes, and how about the Walkmen's new one? I didn't have my hate on for A Hundred Miles Off the way a lot of folks did, but I, weirdly, appreciate it even more now for the way it seems like such a clear dress rehearsal for the more mature, refined, almost elegant sound they've got going on with You & Me. Their talent for cracking open their albums with tightly coiled menace and desire continues unabated; "Donde Esta La Playa" instantly made me go "woah, hold on a second here..." when it first came rumbling into my headphones. That combination of the midnight bebop perambulations of Barrick's drums and the saline midrange of the beyond-mellow organ is the doorway to exactly the kind of sound and exactly the kind of songs the Walkmen have always meant to be playing and writing. This might prove to be a career-definer for 'em.
Other recent highlights from my personal Class of '03? Well, the fucking Stills, OK? They're such a superlative B+ band. It is an uncomplicated affection I have for them! I just like Tim Fletcher's voice and find their rhythm section consistently inventive.