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(Fargo; US: 1 Feb 2005; UK: 7 Mar 2005)

Little treasures are a great pleasure to those of us who seem to spend a large portion of our waking lives thinking about music. There’s something rather fulfilling about putting a great song from an EP on a mix tape/CD or playing it for a friend. Besides, with the full-length disappointments that always exist, how nice it is to put down just a little money for a mini-recording that turns out to be a legitimate find.

Shearwater’s five-song Thieves is one of those EPs. All five songs are worth hearing and two of them, “I Can’t Wait” and “There’s a Mark Where You Were Breathing”, are outstanding. Thieves plays like a peek into the sad parts of life: a lover is stolen from her husband (who is a friend of the thief), another steals himself away from home, and there is the obligatory death (or, stolen from life). There is no heavy-handedness in this, though. Jonathan Meiburg and Will Sheff are merely literate observers.

“I made a book of the hours / I let you out of the tower / Through the murderous crowd / Let the bombs fall so loud / I can’t wait.” Jonathan Meiburg sings these words so emotionally in the song “I Can’t Wait” that it seems to convey the literal notion of the title, and not the contemporary exclamation of excitement. Mr. Meiburg’s voice underscores his words well. He can make a whisper sound as important as a shout, without dipping into theatrics. It’s actually effective enough to give Will Sheff a run for his money in the vocal department.

“There’s a Mark Where You Were Breathing” is the showstopper here. The narrator describes the activity in a house he has left. It’s a sad song, and it is never known whether the narrator is coming back, has gone for good or maybe even has died. The song captures the loneliness of the life immediately following the departure and it is because of this specificity that it is so powerful.

The players on this record—Kim Burke, Thor Harris, Howard Draper, Travis Weller, Scott Danbom—add an atmosphere that is accomlished and full-sounding. The music steals from British rock, chamber pop, country, and folk without losing its own singular identity. Thieves remains consistent and compelling thoughout, and is strong enough to convert a new listener into a Shearwater fan. Can one really ask for anything more from an EP?


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