There’s still time to nominate local icons for Best of D.C.
About halfway through sorta-country quartet Shearwater’s new Winged Life, on “Wedding Bells Are Breaking Up That Old Gang of Mine,” an overage slacker floats in a swimming pool, listening to Slayer, feeling sad and ashamed ’cause all his old buddies have paired off and started families. Misery loves company, and from the failed romantic who “feel[s] the fullest moment of my life slowly fade away” (“My Good Deed”) to the cubicle inmate whose spiritual-retreat epiphany evaporates after a few weeks back at his desk (“A Makeoever”), Shearwater often seems to sing about people who think they’d be doing themselves—and sometimes the world in general—a favor if they didn’t bother getting out of bed in the morning. And if Reign in Blood seems as out of place in the adult world as the joint said slacker’s just smoked, it’s even more alien to the disc’s musical realm. Winged Life is usually as resigned as the world it explores: slow, pensive, and a little austere. In short, it reinforces rather than bucks such sentiments as “Dim the lights as your memory of paradise fades,” and “As you float through time feel your powers decline day by day.” (Exactly how this happens remains obscure: The credits list four band members—Jonathan Meiburg, Will Sheff, Kim Burke, and Thor Harris—and a passel of instruments ranging from guitars and organs to vibraphone and banjo. But we’re left to connect the dots for ourselves.) It ain’t much fun—this probably isn’t the best music to drive, dance, or sing along to—but it doesn’t have to be. The best rock ’n’ roll, it was once said, sounds as if it’s gonna fall apart at any moment; Winged Life is what you play once everything’s already in pieces.—Joe Dempsey