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Shearwater - The Great Awakening: "a remarkable, atmospheric set"

Magical return of underrated maverick Jonathan Meiburg, aka Shearwater

crop of Shearwater's The Great Awakening cover
(Image: © Press)

It’s been six years since the last full Shearwater album, when Jonathan Meiburg ended the tour by praying onstage for the swift death of Donald Trump and his enablers. He needed a break after that, “feeling hopeless”. After doing many other things, from writing a book to performing a recreation of Bowie’s Berlin trilogy, he’s revived the Shearwater name to create an album that focuses on the theme of hope duelling with hopelessness. He’s conjured up a remarkable, atmospheric set of songs that marry soulful, urgent testifying and cerebral experiments like field recordings and a choir of howler monkeys. No, really.   

Since first appearing as the century turned, this Austin, Texas-spawned project has swum quietly immersed in guileful, graceful, Talk Talk-tinted soundscapes, although 2016’s Jet Plane And Oxbow, a protest record, got heavy. This comeback feeds on their past, but in one breath bristles with righteous ire, while in the next tapping into misty swirls of unconscionable beauty. It’d bewitch even if Meiburg wasn’t such a charismatic singer. Still, somehow, one of music’s best-kept secrets is that Shearwater are very, very special. 

Chris Roberts has written about music, films, and art for innumerable outlets. His new book The Velvet Underground is out April 4. He has also published books on Lou Reed, Elton John, the Gothic arts, Talk Talk, Kate Moss, Scarlett Johansson, Abba, Tom Jones and others. Among his interviewees over the years have been David Bowie, Iggy Pop, Patti Smith, Debbie Harry, Bryan Ferry, Al Green, Tom Waits & Lou Reed. Born in North Wales, he lives in London.