Whilst not as dense or treacle-thick as previous Shearwater records, Animal Joy is just as intricately layered, and manages to be peculiarly exhilerating in spite of its persistently shadowy subject matter.
Opener ‘Animal Life’ anchors the album’s loose thread of animal vs. industrial influences on our magnificent, messy race. Disconection is key: events and childhood holidays are ‘half-remembered’, radiance once had is half-remembererd, and the ‘wild interior’ of man is muffled by modernity. Ending saturated in feedback and violent mechanical screeches, the scene has been set for a record on a universal scale.
Unlike previous concept-led records, the album is loosely held together by these themes of change, industry and animality, but contrast is more consistent than unity. ‘Immaculate’, for example, sprints through a kick-up-the-arse carpe diem declaration in just under two and a half minutes, whereas the glorious ‘You as You Were’ takes various images of violent, blood-spattering blows and masterfully converts them into sources of energetic, redemptive change.
This vast, thrilling album describes vast swathes of glittering sky, humanity writhing inside its modern chrysalis, blood and emptiness in a more accessible, less experimental fashion than Shearwater’s earlier recordings, but the overall effect continues to be awe-inspiringly beautiful. When a voice that would lend gentle gravitas to a shopping list is telling you about the stars of the age, though, you’d struggle not to be impressed.
You can listen to the whole damn album now:
Animal Joy is out in the UK now.