Best of 2004: #18 -- Shearwater Winged Life
Is Shearwater a side project of Okkervil River, or is Okkervil River a side project of Shearwater? Both are very good bands, but based on Winged Life, I'd have to say Shearwater now has all the momentum. The slow burn of opening track "A Hush" makes it clear this isn't just some sadcore sobfest. Winged Life is filled with understated arrangements and sublime instrumentation, containing more subtly-placed organs than a Neverland Ranch sleepover.
Shearwater also connects lyrically throughout Winged Life, as evidenced by such personally affecting songs as "The World in 1984," which I found to be of particular interest, having graduated high school that very same year. There are no throwaway lines here, only soul-searching directives, like "What do you think you're gonna do with your life?" It's 20 years later, and I still don't have the answer to that question.