Album Reviews

Music You Don't Know You Like Yet

BOWERBIRDS

The Clearing

2012-03-11

As bands mature, their sound inevitably changes to become more polished and sophisticated. However, some diehard fans are disappointed with this maturation and long for the simplistic days of a band’s beginning. The same can be said for romantic relationships. With time, a couple grows to understand and appreciate each other at levels well beyond the surface characteristics that initially sparked the pairing. However, nothing can replace the fresh and exciting feelings of a newfound love. On their third album, the Bowerbirds, made up of boyfriend/girlfriend Phil Moore and Beth Tacular, deliver 11 songs that highlight the maturation of their music since their debut in 2006 while drawing themes from their growth as a couple (including a breakup and rediscovering their love). Whereas their previous releases have offered sparse instrumentation, The Clearing finds the band dabbling in string and horn arrangements, vibrant percussion, piano and distorted guitar. This newfound instrumentation does not overshadow their vocals, however, as they present lyrics influenced equally by the darkness they endured during the trials of life and the simple wonders that life presents. The Bowerbirds share a close connection with Megafaun and Bon Iver from times spent in the Raleigh, NC area. Megafaun’s Brad Cook released the band’s debut album on his Burlytime label and The Clearing was recorded at Justin Vernon’s April Base studio in Wisconsin. Before Bon Iver, Vernon considered joining Moore’s first band (Ticonderoga) and once did some cat-sitting for the couple. The musicians also share a penchant for recording songs in remote cabins (much of The Clearing was recorded in a North Carolina cabin that the Bowerbirds call home). Listeners may identify similarities to Bon Iver in the middle of the album on “This Year” (5) and “Brave World” (6). Despite the Bowerbirds’ fuller sound, they return to their simplistic roots on “Walk the Furrows” (3) and “Overcome with Light” (8). The majority of songs feature Moore’s vocals or shared harmonies, but Tacular’s earthy vocals take lead on “In the Yard” (2), a celebratory song about the couple’s land in North Carolina and “Hush” (7), a song layered with piano and electric guitar. Although the album may not grab you on the first listen, a greater appreciation for the album’s lyrics, instrumentation and overall production emerges after a few spins. FCC Alerts – None. Highlights – Tuck the Darkness In (1), In the Yard (2), This Year (5), Sweet Moment (9). Reviewed by Brian Hartl

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Compiled by the WYCE Journalism Club

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