Philosopher Immanuel Kant distinguished man from the rest of animal life by reasoning that we are rational beings. On Animal Joy, Shearwater frontman Jonathan Meiburg obliterates that distinction while trading the voluminous prog rock of his past for something more forthright and reflective. On songs like the piano-driven "You as You Were," Meiburg offers impressions on "leaving the [civilized] life" and drops the lush strings and folk markings of Shearwater's six other albums. A delicate harp and looping clarinet crop up on "Star of the Age" to lend the album a mystical ending, but most of the songs are either spare and melodic or hostile. On "Immaculate," Meiburg irrationally berates himself — "Johnny, get a hold of your life" — but he has a better grasp on art and the world it inhabits than most of us ever will. — Michael Tkach
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