Full Discography

  • The Golden Archipelago - ole-861 - 2010-02-23
  • Rook - ole-777 - 2008-06-03
  • Palo Santo: Expanded Edition - OLE-757 - 2007-04-10
Singles & EPs
  • ROOKS / THE RAINBOW - - 2008-05-06
  • THE SNOW LEOPARD DIGITAL EP - - 1993-01-01


The Golden Archipelago  

The Golden Archipelago
ole-861 CD/LP 
Street Date: February 23, 2010


Shearwater continue to explore the beauty, menace, and fragility of the natural world – and that increasingly rare species, the indivisible album – on The Golden Archipelago, the band’s most absorbing and accomplished work to date. The new record is the third panel of a triptych that includes 2006’s enigmatic Palo Santo and 2008’s acclaimed Rook, albums linked by themes of environmental and personal decay and humans’ impact on nature. In The Golden Archipelago, Shearwater turn to a portrait of life on islands – a world of alternating lushness and austerity, numinous silences and sudden cataclysms, and the strange flowerings of plant, animal, and human life that only arise in isolation. These are intimate subjects for songwriter Jonathan Meiburg. As a researcher, he’s camped on islands at the edges of the world, including the Falklands, Tierra del Fuego, the Galapagos, Madagascar, Nunavut, and New Zealand’s Chatham Islands, and once spent a few surreal months in a remote Aboriginal settlement in northern Australia. Adding his grandfather’s WWII experiences as a radio operator in the South Pacific to these travels gave Meiburg plenty of fodder for the songs of The Golden Archipelago, in which he weaves these times and places together with common feelings of wonder, grief, and defiance. The Golden Archipelago opens with the first strains of the anthem of Bikini Atoll, sung by Bikinians in exile on the islet of Kili, where they’ve lived since atomic tests left their home uninhabitable. It’s a fitting introduction to the gentle, eerie “Meridian”, with its depiction of an air raid on an island garrison. From there, Shearwater take us on an island-hopping journey of spectacular contrasts, from the distant heights of “Landscape at Speed” to the snowy expanses of “Hidden Lakes”, from the manic, shuddering confines of “Corridors” to the isolated vistas of “Castaways”. It’s an album of lofty goals and great risk, but Shearwater have never been afraid to dream in widescreen. Like Kate Bush’s Hounds of Love, Husker Du’s Zen Arcade, or Pink Floyd’s polarizing opus The Final Cut, The Golden Archipelago’s beautifully and strangely-wrought musical textures summon a majesty, drama, and individuality that few current records attain, or even attempt. The band worked for months with producer John Congleton (St. Vincent, Black Mountain, Polyphonic Spree, Explosions in the Sky) to capture the thrilling dynamics that have always marked their live performances, burnished by subtle orchestrations and cascades of mallet percussion. The results are singular, revelatory, and demand to be appreciated as a whole. Islands under siege, islands of impenetrable solitude, islands of the world and islands of the mind - all are here in The Golden Archipelago, whose shores and reefs flicker and beckon, even as they crumble under rising seas. 


ole-777 CD/LP 
Street Date: June 3, 2008

Hailed as "almost impossibly majestic and beautiful" (NPR "album of the year"), 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 (aka Nico), marked the Texan quartet's debut on the national stage. Several publications, including The New York Times, named it one of the year's 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, elegaic mood - punctuated by flashes of dread and menace - pervades the album, Rook is its own animal, at once more accessible (the near-title track, "Rooks", anchored by Thor Harris' thunderous kick drum, a booming organ, and a stately trumpet line, could almost be mistaken for radio-friendly) and more accomplished than its predecessor, with a depth and grandeur that seem improbably packed into the album's tidy 35 minutes. Squalls of feedback have largely given way to sudden gusts of strings and woodwinds, though the band's fondness for unusual instrumentation remains intact - harp, hammer dulcimer, and a curiously carved metal box all take featured roles. Each song is a mini-epic, from the in-medias-res opening of "On the Death of the Waters" to the pounding (but drumless) urgency of "Leviathan, Bound", the abrupt rock of "Century Eyes", the crystalline depths and heights of "I Was a Cloud" and "The Snow Leopard", and the final, elegant flourish of "The Hunter's Star". Rook is unlike any other album you'll hear this year - or any year. It has the vividness and ineffability of a waking dream, the strange beauty and internal logic of a fairy tale, and above all, evokes a vanishing world that may or may not be our own.




Palo Santo: Expanded Edition
2CD, 2LP, DA 
April 10, 2007

Shearwater has transformed itself to the point of reinvention on Palo Santo, the band's fourth album. The first Shearwater release to be made up entirely of songs by vocalist and multi-instrumentalist Jonathan Meiburg, Palo Santo resembles previous Shearwater albums only incidentally. It's a thrilling, paradoxical record—icily warm, welcoming and threatening, sloppy and immaculate—and one which NPR called "impossibly majestic and beautiful" in naming it the best record of 2006.

The austere folk that was a trademark of previous Shearwater records makes periodic appearances in Palo Santo, but thorny forests of static and distortion have sprouted up to occasionally obscure it. The band also channels previously unheard influences; the driving staccato piano of "Seventy Four, Seventy Five" recalls early John Cale, "La Dame Et La Licorne" suggests Talk Talk covering "Madman Across the Water", "Failed Queen" takes on the Incredible String Band and Meddle-era Pink Floyd. "White Waves" uncorks a swaggering and impressively heavy electric guitar riff, while "Sing, Little Birdie" might be some forgotten 78 of an old standard, warbling through a morphine haze.  Some of the record's more disorienting soundscapes could inhabit the same strange continent as the Cale-produced classic Desertshore by Nico, whose life inspired each song on Palo Santo.

Meiburg and Will Sheff, who began their collaboration as members of the critically lauded Okkervil River, founded Shearwater in 2001 as an outlet for quieter songs on which the two were working, but it wasn't long before Shearwater turned into something else. Shearwater's debut, The Dissolving Room, introduced Meiburg's now ex-wife Kimberley Burke on upright bass; shortly after, drummer and vibraphonist Thor Harris joined. The addition of multi-instrumentalist Howard Draper plus tours and support dates with the Mountain Goats, Akron/Family and Blonde Redhead hardened Shearwater from a casual ensemble into a tightly focused rock band. Subsequent albums Everybody Makes Mistakes and Winged Life and the EP Thieveshave found Meiburg's elegant melodies and striking voice increasingly at the center.

Given that this is the first Shearwater record on which Meiburg's is the only voice singing lead, it's surprising how varied the vocals on Palo Santoare. Far from a standard-issue indie-rock mumbler, Meiburg's expressive voice leaps with grace. The lyrics start out clear and direct, but soon become abstract and indecipherable; there's a comparable tension in the instrumentation, where antique organs cozy up against a quartet of harmonized shortwave radios, and arpeggiated banjos battle the world's most hideous-sounding fuzz bass.  Arrangements, too, crystallize into perfect harmony only to be cracked open again by dissonance. There seems to be some kind of narrative thread, but it's broken, frayed, frozen, with a persistent sense of mystery.

This 2007 Matador release is a completely refurbished 2-disc version of the original 2006 Misra CD.  Five of the original 11 tracks have been entirely re-recorded, and the second disc includes four new songs (including the Skip James cover "Special Rider Blues") and demo versions of four Palo Santo tracks.  There is also new artwork and deluxe packaging.  Shearwater will have a CD of all-new material in early 2008.

“One of the year’s best rock albums...These 11 flickering — and hummable — songs tell a desperate but not quite decipherable story.”
New York Times

"This is a chilling release, epic in both reach and of the finest records to be released in recent memory."

News From The Matablog

Shearwater - 'The Island Arc' at Austin's Central Presbyterian Church, Jan. 15

"On January 15th, 2011, Shearwater will present The Island Arc, the trilogy of albums that includes 2006's Palo Santo, 2008's Rook, and 2010's The Golden Archipelago, in a single, complete performance at the beautiful Central Presbyterian Church in Austin, Texas.

This will be a one-time-only event - we've never performed these thematically-linked albums in order, and probably never will again.  We've also never played some of the songs live at all.   We'll be joined by old and new friends for this show, and we promise a really special evening for everyone.

The Island Arc isn't a farewell show, not by a long shot, but it does feel like a bookend.  It's a way for us to look back and to clear the way for what's next - which, whatever it is, is going to be quite different from these records.

We begin recording a new album in early 2011. " -  Jonathan Meiburg

Tickets are now on sale.

1. Red Sea, Black Sea b/w Sing , Little Birdie single (from Palo Santo):

A. Red Sea, Black Sea (192k mp3)
B. Sing, Little Birdie (192k mp3)

2. The Snow Leopard b/w South Col (from Rook):

A. The Snow Leopard (192k mp3)
B. South Col (192k mp3)

3. Castaways b/w God Made Me (from The Golden Archipelago):

A. Castaways (192k mp3)
B. God Made Me (192k mp3)

Shearwater live on Chicago's WLUW today at 4:00PM CST

[caption id="" align="alignnone" width="540" caption="(photo by Amy V. Cooper)"][/caption]

As you probably already know, Shearwater is on tour. If you're in Chicago, not only should you check out their show tonight at Lincoln Hall, you should get a taste of what to expect by tuning in to WLUW at 4:00PM CST for a live session with Jonathan Meiburg and company. Listen in at 88.7FM.

In addition to tonight's show in Chicago, there are a few more dates remaining on Shearwater's November jaunt across these United States, so catch them if you can.

Tue Nov 16, 2010 – Chicago IL – Lincoln Hall
Wed Nov 17, 2010 – South Bend IN -  Subkirke
Thu Nov 18, 2010 – St. Louis MO – Duck Room
Fri Nov 19, 2010 – Lawrence KS – Jackpot Saloon
Sat Nov 20, 2010 – Norman OK – The Opolis

Damian Jurado supports on all dates.

Thor Harris' 21-Point Plan For A Long & Successful Musical Career

Apologies if you've already seen the below screed at, Hit Parader or Cat Fancy, but on the off chance you've not read "How To Tour In a Band or Whatever", by Shearwater's grandmaster percussionist Thor Harris, here's another opportunity to do so.

How to Tour in a Band or Whatever
by Thor Harris

1-Don’t Complain. Bitching, moaning, whining is tour cancer. If something is wrong fix it or shut the fuck up you fucking dick. goddamn.
2-If you fart, claim it.
3-Don’t Lose shit. Everybody loses shit. Don’t fucking do it. Asshole.
4-Don’t fuck anyone in the band. There are tons of people to fuck who are not in this band. Dumbass.
5-If you feel like shit all the time, drink less beer at the gig. You will play better & feel better. What are you… a child? Some have the endurance for self abuse. Most don’t.
6-Remember the soundman’s name. He will do a better job.
7- Eat oranges. Cures constipation & prevents colds.
8-Masturbate. Duh… Where & when? Be creative. You’re an artist right?
9-If YOU can’t carry your suitcase 3 blocks, it’s too goddamn big.
10-Respect public space in the van. Don’t clutter, you Fuck.
11-If you borrow something, return it. Not Fucked Up.
12-Do not let the promoter dick you or talk you out of the guarantee. If there were not enuf people there, it’s their fault.
13- Driver picks the music.
14-One navigator only (usually sitting shotgun). Everyone else shut the fuck up.
15-Soundcheck is for checking sounds. Shut the fuck up while everyone else is checking.
16-Don’t wander off. Let someone know where you are.
17-Clean up after yourself. What are you… a goddamn toddler?
18-Touring makes everyone bi-polar. Ride the waves as best you can and remember, moods pass. So don’t make any snap decisions or declarations when you are drunk or insane.
19-Fast food is Poison.
20-The guestlist is for friends, family & people you might want to fuck. Everyone else can pay. They have day jobs.
21- Don’t evaluate your whole life while you’re sitting in a janitor closet waiting to go on. You think you’re above having shitty days at work? Shut up & do your goddamn job.

Shearwater November Tour Begins

Photo Credit: Jake Giles Netter

Shearwater kick off their November US tour TONIGHT at The Bottletree in Birmingham, AL.

And to get you in a Shearwater state of mind be sure to watch this recent live piece on the band that aired on WHYY Philadelphia's On Canvas.

Tue Nov 02, 2010 – Birmingham AL - The Bottletree
Wed Nov 03, 2010 – Tallahassee FL  - The Engine Room
Thu Nov 04, 2010 – Orlando FL - The Social
Fri Nov 05, 2010 – Atlanta GA - The Earl
Sat Nov 06, 2010 – Chapel Hill NC - Local 506
Sun Nov 07, 2010 – Charlottesville VA - The Southern
Tue Nov 09, 2010 – Washington DC - Rock and Roll Hotel
Wed Nov 10, 2010 – Philadelphia PA - Johnny Brenda’s
Thu Nov 11, 2010 – Cambridge MA - Middle East Downstairs
Fri Nov 12, 2010 – Brooklyn NY - Music Hall of Williamsburg
Sat Nov 13, 2010 – Pittsburgh PA - Thunderbird Cafe
Sun Nov 14, 2010 – Detroit MI - Magic Stick
Mon Nov 15, 2010 – Columbus, OH -  Outland on Liberty
Tue Nov 16, 2010 – Chicago IL - Lincoln Hall
Wed Nov 17, 2010 – South Bend IN -  Subkirke
Thu Nov 18, 2010 – St. Louis MO - Duck Room
Fri Nov 19, 2010 – Lawrence KS - Jackpot Saloon
Sat Nov 20, 2010 – Norman OK - The Opolis

Damian Jurado supports on all dates.
Middle East on 11/11 - Shearwater supports Horse Feathers (also on the bill are Damian Jurado + Anais Mitchell).

REVISED SCHEDULE : Matador At 21 : The Lost Weekend In Las Vegas, The Palms

First off, if these changes have left anyone disappointed or inconvenienced, we're truly sorry.  I've been watching videos of the guys in the BP commercials all week trying to strike the right tone for this post, and wouldn't you know it, MY VIDEO CAMERA IS BROKEN.   Bullet dodged.

On the bright side, hey, DEAD MEADOW are playing.    The opening VIP gala is still happening at 4pm Friday in the Hardwood Suite with dj sets by Ted Leo and myself.  Same room becomes a VIP lounge Friday and Saturday nights, plus late night dj action on Friday (James McNew, Dean Bein) and Saturday (Dave Martin, Robby Morris).  Here's the live entertainment schedule of events.  Much like real life, everything is subject to change.


Pavement: 12:00am – 1:00am
Sonic Youth: 10:40pm – 11:30am
Fucked Up: 9:35pm – 10:15pm
Chavez: 8:30pm – 9:10pm
Guitar Wolf: 7:30pm – 8:10pm
Doors: 7:00pm

MC : Jeff Jensen

Fucked Up Vs. Ted Leo and The Pharmacists: 1:30am – 2:30am
(One stage. Two bands.  At once. They're supposed to take turns, song by song...but who knows?)
Doors: 1:00am


Belle & Sebastian: 11:45pm – 1:00am
Spoon: 10:25pm – 11:15pm
Superchunk: 9:20pm – 10:00pm
Cat Power: 8:15pm – 8:55pm
Perfume Genius: 7:55pm – 8:15pm
Jon Spencer Blues Explosion: 6:50pm – 7:30pm
Come: 5:45pm – 6:25pm
Girls: 4:40pm – 5:20pm
Doors 4:00pm

MC : Bob Nastanovich

Dead Meadow: 2:30pm – 3:15pm
Harlem: 1:30pm – 2:05pm
Doors: 1:00pm

Cold Cave: 2:25am - 3:15am
Esben and The Witch: 1:30am – 2:00am
Doors: 1:00am

STARTS AT 1:30am


Guided By Voices: 11:30pm – 1:00am
Yo La Tengo: 10:10pm – 11:05pm
Liz Phair: 9:50pm – 10:10pm
The New Pornographers: 8:40pm – 9:25pm
Ted Leo and The Pharmacists: 7:35pm – 8:15pm
Shearwater: 6:30pm – 7:10pm
Doors: 6:00pm

MC's : Tom Scharpling & Jon Wurster

The Clean: 4:30pm – 5:15pm
Times New Viking: 3:30pm – 4:05pm
Kurt Vile: 2:30pm – 3:05pm
Doors: 2:00pm

General questions :

This event is sponsored by MySpace Music, Altamont, Incase, Sailor Jerry and Yowie.

Music & Video