Friday, November 20, 2009

Album of the Week, 11/20/09--"Upper Air" by Bowerbirds

Seems hard to believe now, but just a few months ago we were watching the first stars bleed through twilight's indigo fabric at almost nine each night. These days most of us are lucky to catch a tamped-down sunset before heading home to our dark living rooms. So let's return to July... In the middle of all the summer gloriousness and long before I started this blog, Bowerbirds released their second album, Upper Air (July 7). True, Upper Air isn't necessarily new, but it happens to be splendid and warm and lush, and I want to feature it as Album of the Week, despite the fact that autumn has steeped the air in wet leaves.

Last week I embedded a La Blogotheque Take-Away Show clip of Bowerbirds in a candy store in New York City. This got me thinking about the band and the hill country from whence they sprang—I had a feeling it wasn't the hills of Queens. In this case, members Phil Moore (vocals, guitar, tambourine), Beth Tacular (vocals, accordion, bass drum), and Matt Damron (drums, violin) hail from the misty mountains of Raleigh, North Carolina, where they've been baptized in gospel and nature.

An undercurrent of anti-materialism runs through the album, as in "House of Diamonds," when Moore sings, "You are free from the greed of your culture/ you are free from the lust for the luster." The tracks themselves, with their simple guitar-and-accordion arrangements, may seem short on luster at first, but they do shine up with subsequent listens. There are many subtleties at work—rising instrumental crescendos, perfectly timed lyrical pauses, well-integrated choruses. It would be a mistake to dismiss Bowerbirds' rustic sound before noticing how they open the door to higher spiritual plains through natural imagery and their earnest belief in the interconnectedness of life. It may sound hokey but somehow isn't.

"Northern Lights"


"Beneath Your Tree"


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