REVIEW: Shearwater: Everybody Makes Mistakes
Shearwater: Everybody Makes Mistakes [Misra, 2002] (mp3s)
Three words? dancing to regret
Shearwater reminds us that a finger of sunlight through a window, like a single piano note, can be utterly devastating. This is an album full of mistakes - of accidents, stumblings, errors and regrets - but none of them in the music itself. There, everything is arranged with painstaking care - vibraphone and acoustic guitar appear according to a sad, strange arithmetic, timed to meet sorrow, longing and hope. Though the songs address plane-crashes, surgery and lightning-strikes, these disasters blossom in the sparest of surroundings. Everybody Makes Mistakes is like an aria in an art gallery, the hush broken by clear, high notes.
The group's songwriters, Will Robinson Sheff and Jonathan Meiburg, also collaborate in the sylvan rock troupe Okkervil River. Here, however, they've turned away from gothic Autumns and stormy banjo punk, voicing their visions with high, near-ghostly falsetto. Both voices fly close to the flames of Thom Yorke or Sigur Ros's Jon Thor Birgisson. With the exception of the Okkervil-like "Well, Benjamin" or the earnest "Mistakes", nothing here would be confused for the stormy other project. It is too refined, pristine, pretty. Even the languid "Room for Mistakes" is possessed with an intensity of feeling and craft. The record's sadness - floating, potent, stretched thin from crying - is almost too much to bear: like a sweet, heady liqueur, it is difficult to consume in large quantities. Abandoned, in an empty house, white light streaming through the windows, it might be a perfect accompaniment... elsehwere, however, the honesty of the emotion is carelessly overwhelming. 'Carelessly' not because the songs are ramshackle - quite the opposite - but rather that the work of Shearwater wastes no thought on those who will hear it. Nothing is watered down: the soul of these songs is played without concession. Everybody Makes Mistakes is absolutely, almost frighteningly pure. In fact, we imperfect men and women, still messy in our sorrows, rarely find ourselves prepared for such purging music. To listen to the twelve distilled tracks of this album is to risk discomfort - or pain - for the possibility of being ready for its transcendence.