Bowerbirds: The Clearing (Dead Oceans) | Under the Radar - Music Magazine
Monday, November 30th, 2020  


The Clearing

Dead Oceans

Mar 07, 2012 Web Exclusive Bookmark and Share

Bowerbirds' third record stays the familiar course set by their first two albums: pretty, pastoral neo-folk and heartfelt, poetic lyrics are still generally their rule of thumb, softly sung and largely unplugged. Continuing the ideas of 2009's Upper Air rather than building upon them, The Clearing is as pleasant as their previous work, but suffers from a nagging case of diminishing returns.

Bowerbirds' Phil Moore and Beth Tacular work in a prevalent mode of backwoods Americana that's permeated indie rock over the past half-decade. In a move true to the form, the duo cut part of the album in Justin Vernon's April Base studio (and Bon Iver-ed the rest in their North Carolina cabin). The band sounds a bit less ramshackle here thanks to improved production, but there's little else to suggest much musical growth has occurred in the roughly five years since their debut, Hymns for a Dark Horse. There's an elating burst of fuzz in "In the Yard" that breaks free from the usual rustic shuffle; the Tacular-sung piano ballad, "Hush," builds layer upon layer of lush instrumentation as thick as anything that they've recorded. However, most tracks are more and more of the same. As de rigueur as the sounds become, songs such as "This Year" and "Overcome with Light" are beautifully provincial, the vocals resonating delicately across tenderly-picked acoustic guitar and hollow, reverberating bass drum kicks. Bowerbirds have cornered their particular sound within this current pocket of rural indie rock; they don't seem eager to venture too far away from it after three albums. At what point does keeping the boat steady become just treading water? It's a quandary that Bowerbirds will have to pose to themselves sooner rather than later. (

Author rating: 6/10

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