Sharks Keep Moving - Desert Strings And Drifters (Cover Artwork)
Staff Review

Sharks Keep Moving

Desert Strings And Drifters (1999)

Second Nature

My first encounter with a shark came at the young age of seven. It was in Tarpon Springs, Florida, a small Greek community in the Tampa vicinity. There's a small aquarium in the downtown area, offering you opportunities to, among other things, hold a blowfish and pet a string ray. The big draw, however, is a tank holding various fish and and sharks, in which there's a daily show where a diver immerses himself in the tank to interact with the animals. Now, before this exhibition could start, the tank's largest shark swam pretty quickly, right towards me, at which point I jumped back, tripped over the bench behind me, and hit my head on the ground. It was later explained to me that a shark that size could never break the thick, double-paned glass, so I grew to enjoy going to that aquarium and seeing the shows, just as over the years I've grown to be a pretty big fan of the indie rock outfit Sharks Keep Moving.

Combining delicate but moving vocals, off-key time signatures and lulling instrumentation, Sharks Keep Moving's Desert Strings And Drifters is a four-song EP well-versed in talented songwriting and relaxing soundscapes. I've heard some comparisons to American Football in relation to this EP, and I can't say I really disagree with that assessment, the difference being when American Football seems poised to rock and let things go, is when Sharks Keep Moving actually do rock. They share some jazzy qualities with a lot of the drumming and guitar tones, but these songs have a depth to them that's all their own. "Cashmere, Washington" has some strong instrumentation, including the use of a viola that does well to accent the mood and tempo, meanwhile adding a little extra.

The vocals to be found on this album appear about as often as I enjoy actually being around sharks: rather sparsely. It seems that the singer likes to "pick his spots," so to speak, but his inclusion just doesn't seem to have any rhyme or reason in the sound or sequencing of this album. The instrumentation far outweighs any sort of vocal harmony on every song but the aforementioned "Cashmere, Washington," where the singer's delicate and restrained tone accents the quiet harmonics of the guitar and slinky sounds of the bass.

It's on EPs like this that the individual parts are greater than the sum of the whole. It's a tight package, but it's moments like the viola that brings "All Out Of..." and the ultra delicate vocals on top of the viola in "Arizona" that produce the finest moments. That's not to say the EP as a whole isn't strong, because that's not the case, but I find myself listening to individual songs more than the entire album in one solid effort.

Sharks Keep Moving really didn't hit their stride until after this EP, but this introduction to the band proved to be an important one. Jazzy song textures, light vocals, and some terrific mood setting by the inclusion of the viola help to push this release above what I would consider average, but the sound growing dull by the end of things is something that needed to be addressed. For those who haven't heard the band, it's not a bad place to start, and it hurts a whole hell of a lot less than a bump to the head on a tile floor.