usa | Label: Sub Pop
Europe/UK (Agent) Steven Thomassen

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Jet Plane and Oxbow, Shearwater’s second original full-length for Sub Pop, is their career-defining album—the leap forward those of us who’ve watched them for years have always believed they would make. Lush, powerful, and grand, with a confident edge heard more often in their live shows than on record, it feels like the musical statement they’ve been working toward through five albums and a decade on the road. It’s an album that captures the light and darkness of our time through the lens of one of our most unique and, for a growing number of ardent fans, treasured bands.

This is definitely Shearwater’s loudest record; it’s easy to imagine these songs roaring from the stage. But it’s also, strangely, their most beautiful one. Producer/engineer Danny Reisch (who also recorded 2012’s Animal Joy and the off-the-cuff collaborations of 2014’s Fellow Travelers) and singer Jonathan Meiburg spent two years crafting Jet Plane and Oxbow in studios in Austin, Portland, and Los Angeles, with help from drummer Cully Symington, longtime Shearwater associates Howard Draper, Lucas Oswald and Abram Shook, and past tourmates Jesca Hoop and Jenn Wasner (of Wye Oak).

But their secret weapon is film composer and percussionist Brian Reitzell, who wrote and recorded scores for The Virgin Suicides, Lost in Translation, The Bling Ring, and NBC’s Hannibal. Reitzell worked with Reisch and Meiburg in the later stages of the album, and his arsenal of strange instruments and equipment emphasizes the album’s cinematic depth and scope while anchoring it in an era —”about 1980″, according to Meiburg— when digital technology was just beginning to transform the world of recorded music. In Shearwater’s hands, this doesn’t feel like nostalgia; the racing synths and hammered dulcimers of heart-pounding opener “Prime” or the addled motorik of “Radio Silence” feel more like a metaphor for our own technologically bewildering moment. Meiburg describes Jet Plane and Oxbow as a protest record (see attached interview); the title comes from a moment when he looked out the window of a 737 as a newer, sleeker plane, passing below, bisected an ancient loop of the Mississippi.

In recent years, Meiburg’s been working as a writer as well as a musician—he’s spent months of 2015 doing book research in the tropical forests of South America among jaguars, caimans, and giant spiders for stalwart publisher Knopf—but he doesn’t seem distracted here. In fact, he’s never sounded more present on record. His voice is urgent, angry, and tender by turns, and the songs are as multi-layered as the production. “Quiet Americans”, the obvious single, wraps a deep ambivalence in a call to arms; “Only Child” is shot through with compassion even as it describes a life fracturing under pressure. And though the album begins in close-up (and you were lying on your back in the grass/counting backward from a thousand) it ends wide, as “Stray Light at Clouds Hill” evokes the dark side of the earth—luminous, eerie, and vast. Shearwater have always worked on a huge canvas, but on Jet Plane and Oxbow, their reach finally equals their grasp.

Shearwater begin touring in Europe in February 2016, and the United States in March. Besides Meiburg, the live band will include Jamie Stewart (of Xiu Xiu), Lucas Oswald, Josh Halpern, and Emily Lee.


Jet Plane And Oxbow
Fellow Travelers
Sub Pop(2013)
Animal Joy
Sub Pop(2012)
The Golden Archipelago
Palo Santo
Winged Life
Everybody Makes Mistakes
The Dissolving Room
Grey Flat(2001)