Somehow managing to be even chillier and darker than before, the reissue of Shearwater
's Palo Santo
is a vivid reimagining of the initial album. The 12 tracks found on the original have been married with another disc's worth of material, several of the songs have been re-recorded, and a sinister cockatoo now graces the cover where a wintry forest once stood. Palo Santo
is the band's fourth album, and it's Shearwater's fiercest work by far. Lead singer Jonathan Meiburg, whose vocals hover somewhere between Jeff Buckley
's operatic caterwaul and Antony
's heartbreaking falsetto, sounds like a man unhinged -- a startling turn of events given the band's previous work, which was more contemplative and, to be perfectly honest, a little limp. This newfound fierceness is warranted. These are odd songs, full of weird abstractions, and they move at the pace of a fever dream. The lyrics can be somewhat insular, especially on tracks like "Johnny Viola" ("If you could ring the sky like a bell/Even such a sound would never suffice"); but Meiburg's urgent howl imbues his abstractions with meaning, giving way to a group of muscular, strangely lit songs that span brave, disturbing heights ("Red Sea, Black Sea") and sprawling, haunted lows ("Failed Queen"). If there's fault to be found with this reissue, it's in some of the additional material. The second helping of "Red Sea, Black Sea" feels just a tad superfluous, if only because the track was so potent the first time around. Not that the extra songs lack any merit whatsoever -- there's a stark, raw beauty in the second helpings of "Little Birdie" and "Failed Queen," and a return to these tracks feels justified. Small quibbles aside, the 2007 reissue of Palo Santo
is an excellent expansion of the original -- it was strange and lovely to begin with, and it's only stranger and lovelier in this new edition.