Jet Plane and Oxbow, Shearwater’s second original full-length for Sub Pop, is their career-defining album—the leap forward those of us who’ve been watching them for years have always believed they would make. Lush, powerful, and grand, with a confident edge heard in their live shows, it feels like the musical statement they’ve been working toward through five albums and a decade on the road. It’s an album that captures the light and darkness of our time through the lens of one of our most treasured bands. This is definitely Shearwater’s loudest record, but it’s also their most beautiful one. Producer/engineer Danny Reisch (who also recorded 2012’s Animal Joy and the off-the-cuff collaborations of 2014’s Fellow Travelers) and frontman Jonathan Meiburg spent two years crafting Jet Plane and Oxbow in studios in Austin and Los Angeles, with help from drummer Cully Symington, longtime Shearwater associates Howard Draper and Lucas Oswald, and tourmates Jesca Hoop and Jenn Wasner (of Wye Oak). But their secret weapon this time is film composer and percussionist Brian Reitzell, whose credits include The Virgin Suicides, Lost in Translation, The Bling Ring, and 30 Days of Night. Reitzell’s arsenal of strange instruments and equipment emphasizes the album’s cinematic depth and scope, and reflects the band’s choice to anchor the record in the era when digital technology was just beginning to transform the world of recorded music. Meiburg describes Jet Plane and Oxbow as a protest record; the title comes from a moment when he looked out the window of a 737 as another plane, passing below, bisected a loop of the Mississippi. In recent years, Meiburg’s been working as a writer as well as a musician, but he doesn’t seem distracted here; in fact, he’s never sounded more present on record. His voice is urgent, angry, and tender by turns, and the songs are as multi-layered as the production. “Quiet Americans”, the obvious single, wraps a deep ambivalence inside a call to arms; “Only Child”, perhaps the most straightforward song Meiburg’s ever written, is shot through with warmth even as it describes a life fracturing under pressure. Shearwater have always worked on a huge canvas, but with Jet Plane and Oxbow, their reach finally equals their grasp. Shearwater begin touring in Europe in February 2016, and the United States in March; besides Meiburg, the live lineup will include Jamie Stewart (of Xiu Xiu), Cully Symington, Lucas Oswald, and Natalie Mering (of Weyes Blood).