It’s no surprise to anyone that has ever laid their ears on an album by Shearwater, that Animal Joy is one of the most highly anticipated Indie Rock albums of 2012. Thirteen years on from their formation, this is very much a transitional album for the band. Following up from their three album masterpiece (labelled the ‘Island Arc’ trilogy) and standing as their first effort since their move to Sub Pop Records, there has been no shortage of change for this Austin three-piece.

The album’s opener ‘Animal Life’ kicks things off with the pace and sincerity we have come to expect from Meiburg & Co. Followed swiftly, ‘Breaking The Yearlings’ grabs the listener by the throats, forcing them to pay attention to the driving guitar hooks and intricate drum work. The production on this song is particularly impressive; featuring a series of bass drops so fat that they’re in the running for this year’s ‘Biggest Loser’.

Shearwater have an incredible gift for transitioning between vulnerable, soft moments, to huge orchestral arrangements with such ease and confidence (‘Insolence’). A huge factor which makes this work so effectively is Meiburg’s voice; an instrument so pure, he can play with your emotions with the smallest inflections of his vocal delivery. ‘You As You Were’ is a song of real beauty. Rich with metaphor and simile, it describes a man leaving a girl and her struggle to piece together what she has left in his absence. This, a topic covered so frequently in popular music, illuminates all the brighter the lyrical talent of Meiburg and his ability to create something so fresh and new over a path so well-travelled.

The most noticeable difference between this and the ‘Island Arc’ albums is the more extensive use of solo guitar, and a push towards a more rock-edged sound. This is especially apparent on tracks such as ‘Immaculate’ & ‘Breaking The Yearlings’; driven forward with Wilco-esque guitar riffs and classic rock drum fills. The lyrics have developed somewhat since the ‘Island’ trilogy too. On those albums Meiburg & Sheff looked at the world from the outside, tackling the big existential questions with beauty and grace. On Animal Joy there has been a shift towards more personal, insular themes; however, these are handled with the same incredible craft that we have come to expect from one of Indie-Rock’s most undeniable talents.