Hailed as "almost impossibly majestic and beautiful" (NPR), Shearwater's Palo Santo (2007, Matador), a suite of ethereal but oddly disquieting art-rock songs loosely centered around the life and death of singer Christa Paffgen (a.k.a. Nico), marked the Texan quartet's debut on the national stage. The New York Times named the album one of the year's very best, and the band's singular combination of sonic abandon and restraint, spun around the soaring, otherworldly voice of part-time ornithologist Jonathan Meiburg, drew comparisons to late-period Talk Talk and both the lovely and anxious moments of Eno's early solo work.
This year's much-anticipated Rook takes the band into realms both richer and stranger. Though a similarly haunted, elegiac mood pervades the album, Rook is its own animal, at once more accessible and more accomplished than its predecessor, with a depth and grandeur that seem improbably packed into the album's tidy 35 minutes.