Every Monday through Friday, we deliver a different song as part of our Song of the Day podcast subscription. This podcast features exclusive KEXP in-studio performances, unreleased songs, and recordings from independent artists that our DJs think you should hear. Today’s song, selected by Midday Show host Cheryl Waters, is “A Wake For The Minotaur” by Shearwater from the 2013 album Fellow Travelers on Sub Pop.
Initially formed as a side project for Okkervil River’s Jonathan Meiburg and Will Sheff, the band’s more pastoral and ornate tendencies stood apart as a distinct outlet for the Austin, Texas, musicians until 2008, when the band became Meiburg’s sole project. Creatively based around Meiburg’s songwriting and songs from Sheff that he felt didn’t fit in with Okkervil, the band’s increasingly majestic and evocative provided a more naturalistic counterpart to Okkervil’s narrative-based folk rock, with Meiburg’s distinct vocal style serving as its calling card. Although the band are currently working on their forthcoming eighth studio album, for the follow up to 2012’s Animal Joy, Meiburg began recording cover songs at home for possible release. Enthusiasm for the project led to a full release of Fellow Travelers, a covers album that finds Meiburg and co. reinterpreting songs by St. Vincent, Clinic, Wye Oak, and Coldplay among other artists who toured with Meiburg over the past ten years or so. The sole original track on the record, “A Wake For The Minotaur” is a stark, brooding lament featuring Sharon Van Etten’s melancholic voice as a counterpoint to Meiburg’s low, operatic bellow. Not unlike Van Etten’s earlier, more spartan work, the pair use negative space as an ally, allowing their voices to carry through a cavernous arrangement fitting for the funeral of a mythic beast. Although Meiburg, a noted ornithologist, has written extensively about non-mythical creatures, “A Wake For The Minotaur” finds him exploring a more fantastical angle that suits him well.
Shearwater are going on tour behind Fellow Travelers in 2014, and they’ll stop at the Crocodile on February 15th with Jesca Hoop (author of Fellow Travelers‘ “Our Only Sun”) supporting. Get tickets and more info on that all-ages show here, keep up with the band on their website and Facebook. For now, watch Meiburg play a the Frank Ocean song “Novacane”, a cover not included on Fellow Travelers, during a recent performance in the KEXP studio: