Shearwater trades Okkervil River's shadow for its own dramatic gloom  | Music | Pittsburgh | Pittsburgh City Paper

Shearwater trades Okkervil River's shadow for its own dramatic gloom  

Shearwater, hailing from Austin, Texas, shares much in common with its avian namesake -- a mid-sized, long-living bird that, by jutting its wings stiffly from its body, cuts through the air swiftly instead of floating above the water. Shearwater's dramatic rock is similarly airborne, with billowing, echoing pianos waltzing around Jonathan Meiburg's lofty, velvety bellow. 

This isn't frenetic hummingbird music or playful, goofy pigeon jams -- the songs cut through airwaves with a surgeon's precision, each note purposeful and exact; they don't flap, they surge forward.

Like the bird, Shearwater also (figuratively) took flight from the water: Founders Meiburg and Will Sheff both hail from the band Okkervil River. Sheff stuck with Okkervil (making that band one of indie rock's most acclaimed in recent years) while Meiburg eventually quit to put all his energy into Shearwater. It's taken a few years for Shearwater to leave the shadow of Okkervil River, but the unceasingly serious, gorgeous drama of 2008's Rook and this year's The Golden Archipelago successfully distanced the band from Okkervil's often playful country rock. 

On Archipelago tracks like the piano-crashing "Black Eyes" and the paranoid, bleary "Corridors," Meiburg's voice is a call to arms against some dark, shadowy evil. "No light on the western shore; no sign of the ships at anchor; no sound but the roaring winds," he crows on "Black Eyes," as Shearwater swoops through an endless night, above a pitch-black ocean.


Shearwater, with Damien Jurado and Lohio. 8 p.m. Sat., Nov. 13. Thunderbird Café, 4023 Butler St., Lawrenceville. $15 ($17 at the door). 412-682-0177 or

On a gilded stage: Shearwater.
  • On a gilded stage: Shearwater.


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