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History is full of big moments, flashpoints that cause quite a stir and change the course of pretty much everything, like for example, the industrial revolution. Mark this year because 2016 is when Shearwater started their own personal industrial revolution on Jet Plane and Oxbow, an album that has the band sounding mechanical and dealing with a few big world problems.

From the very get-go, Jet Plane and Oxbow is a record full of conflicts, a snapshot of a man wrestling with contradictions; the natural world against the technological, man-made world, the light inside of everyone and the dark too, those kind of lofty subjects. This isn't just played out lyrically though, in fact, the main battlefield is in the music. There are a couple of exceptions but for the most part songs don't stay in the same mood for the duration; melodies twist and turn, at one moment overwhelmingly positive and ecstatic then the next moment haunting and sombre, the music quite often and literally embodies the term 'crashing down to earth'. It's a subtle and understated effect from Meiburg but it's an incredibly effective one; by placing polar opposites so close together the juxtaposition is amplified, enhancing and strengthening their effects and so the listener feels exactly what Meiburg wants them to feel right down to how hard he wants them to feel it. Take 'Prime' for example, those lush synths are placed alongside the softest of vocals, quite haunting vocals actually, the synths still bubbling away as Meiburg asserts "I get lost in the dark with such a violence in me". On the one hand, the song is beautiful yet and on the other something completely different with a deep, dark undercurrent. The song ends with those same synths being given room to grow as if Shearwater want so badly to cast light onto what they're doing but that idea gets snapped down by an overtly aggressive bass and drum section. They both work alongside each other, creating the perfect contradiction.

This is something new from Shearwater, not necessarily needed and certainly not in the 'welcome change' category because the Shearwater of old was mighty fine as it was, but it's still refreshing to hear a band throw a curveball into their sound and work it into the album's narrative. Jet Plane and Oxbow needs those heavy, aggressive guitars and the clinical industrial type rhythms to help differentiate between the natural world and the unnatural one. It's no surprise though that Shearwater are at their most evocative and most beautiful on 'Only Child', an unashamed and unrestrained love letter to the rustic world; it's as if Meiburg is arguing the case found in old stoic principles of how true comes from the beauty of nature, and so throws every ounce of positivity into that one song.

'Quiet Americans' though seems to encapsulate everything Jet Plane and Oxbow as an album is trying to say. At a base level it's fairly upbeat (you could imagine this getting serious radio airplay), but delve a little further and contradictions start to spring up in the music as Meiburg add doubt and paranoia into the lyrics. Are the Americans saviours or sinners to the world? A first port of call to save the world ("I can't help it if all the world is ending, all the life is gone while you're calling out this name, where are the Americans?") or a nation that holds itself above the rest of the world? The lyrical content isn't indicative of the whole album but thematically it's the centre point of the entire thing, the conflict that runs throughout is at its very strongest here.

From those first cascading synths right the way through to the conclusion, Shearwater and Jonathon Meiburg are showcasing themselves in the most wonderful of ways. Jet Plane and Oxbow is an engrossing listen, it's a multi-faceted record full of beauty, paranoia, hope, ecstasy and despair. As a protest album of sorts it benefits from the big sound Shearwater have adopted (certainly a direction the band con go in with no questions of authenticity), but also from Meiburg's strong, captivating vocals; at times preacher, other times teacher and sometimes a man saying what the everyman is thinking, he puts his message across with such wonderful conviction, the apparent conflict within him bleeding through. This is Shearwater taking a leap out of their usual rustic world and it's a world in which they could thrive in the future. If they don't come back here again, Jet Plane and Oxbow presents a wonderful snapshot.

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