NPR logo Telling Tales of Stormy Seas

Telling Tales of Stormy Seas

Red Sea, Black Sea

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Wednesday's Song

  • Song: "Red Sea, Black Sea"
  • Artist: Shearwater
  • CD: Palo Santo
  • Genre: Americana

Led by bird scientist Jonathan Meiburg, who performs double-duty in the alt-folk band Okkervil River, Shearwater finds inspiration both in nature and in albums by Brian Eno and Talk Talk. A two-headed monster, Shearwater is part sorrowful folk ensemble, part noisier Americana outfit.

Shearwater melds sorrowful folk and noisier Americana. Mary Sledd hide caption

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Mary Sledd

Shearwater's forthcoming Palo Santo calls upon these seemingly contradictory forces to help immerse listeners in sound. "Red Sea, Black Sea" opens with the sound of Meiburg's strikingly clear vocals over a hazy foundation of tensely plucked banjo and skittishly foreboding beats. An upright bass sends off threatening dark notes alongside the nearly tribal drums, while a frantic tambourine builds tension to suit the singer's distorted, otherworldly words of terrible lights and stormy seas.

Meiburg warns listeners to "turn the transmitters off" as he hints at imminent catastrophe at sea: "We are not coming back." The song builds to an appropriately apocalyptic dance of ferocious instruments and voices, creating a sensation akin to getting caught in a magnificent storm.

Listen to yesterday's 'Song of the Day.'

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