You’d be forgiven for not realizing that Shearwater’s Fellow Travelers is an album of covers. Frontman Jonathan Meiburg has a voice so loaded with emotion that it twists these tracks into something new, and the covered artists have been invited to collaborate on the record as well…as long as they select a song that is not their own.
Shearwater rise to the one great rule of performing covers: make the song different enough to justify a cover. While “Hurts Like Heaven” retains its delicate edge, it sounds indie enough that it’s difficult to peg as a Coldplay track. Baptist Generals’ “Fucked Up Life” sounds like an acoustic lament for the first thirty seconds, and then Clinic’s presence kicks in to add those interesting electro elements. The cover of St. Vincent’s “Cheerleader” transforms into a sort of classic rock jam, while Xiu Xiu’s “I Luv the Valley OH!!” is a delicious rock tune with a riff that will stick in your head all day.
The one fault I find with Fellow Travelers is not the execution but the way the songs are arranged. There is a lot of swinging back and forth between big rock and delicate acoustic sounds, which makes for a jarring record. A rearranged track list could work wonders in making this feel like a more complete album rather than a collection of tracks recorded around the same time.