Monday, July 13, 2009

Record Review: Bowerbirds - Upper Air

After writing a Paste Band of the Week on Bowerbirds at the re-release of Hymns For A Dark Horse last year (in which I got to interview Phil Moore), reviewing their follow-up LP was a bit of a challenge. For one thing, their style hadn't vastly changed on this sophomore effort. Many of the same elements were still there, to the point that it risked monotony. But once I listened enough, I got to experience the ways the band was growing. In the end, Upper Air is a satisfying, if not list-topping, effort from a band whose instinct for beauty is unparalleled.

For Stomp and Stammer:

Upper Air
[Dead Oceans]

“One morning you wake to find you are shackled to your bed/ And bound and gagged/ Oh my, what a predicament,” Phil Moore sings to begin “House of Diamonds,” the lead-off track of Bowerbirds’ sophomore LP. That certainly would be a predicament, but not to worry; “You were free/ You were already free,” the song reassures as Beth Tacular’s high, clear voice joins Moore’s. Two years after the self-release and one year after the re-release of the North Carolina trio’s first full-length Hymns for a Dark Horse, they’ve returned with Upper Air, an album consistent with their debut but that shows clear signs of evolution.

See, they were already free. Hymns betrayed the band’s organic, unshackled ways of writing, playing and living. (Moore and Tacular are a couple and lived in an Airstream trailer in the woods before they built their own log cabin.) The album explored almost exclusively themes of respect for nature, of living harmoniously with it and with the world as a whole. On Upper Air they still use pretty, harmonized vocal hooks and minimalist, acoustic instrumentation like accordion, piano and hand-held bass drum. They still pepper their folk songs with a darker, more intense gypsy number here or there; see “Beneath Your Tree.”...[Read more]

[MP3] Bowerbirds - "Crooked Lust"

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