Wednesday, July 8, 2009

Album Review: Bowerbirds-Upper Air

Bowerbirds is a band that makes me take a step back and realize how much my musical tastes have changed over the years. If I were to go back in time to my 18-year old self, Bowerbirds record in hand, to show my former self what I was to become, I'm afraid I'd beat the crap out of myself. They have all the makings of a band I would have despised even up until the last few years. In fact, a large part of me thinks that maybe, just maybe, the only reason I ever got into these guys in the first place is because I saw their hypnotizing La Blogotheque session before I'd ever heard any of their music. Something about watching the band walk around a New York City market while playing their laid back tunes just captivated me, and really warmed me up to their sound.

Bowerbirds are an exercise in minimalism. Phil Moore plays guitar and sings lead vocals, Beth Tacular plays accordion and sings backup. One thing about this band is you need to get entirely caught up in the mood in order to fully appreciate their sound. Much like a good fantasy or science-fiction movie, if you don't allow yourself to be fully immersed in the universe, you'll find yourself hating and mocking what you're watching (or in this case, what you're listening to). The world Bowerbirds live in is decidedly "green", singing about tall trees with fearless leaves. Again, while this doesn't work on paper, it makes sense if you allow yourself to become enveloped. The earnestness in which the lyrics are sung are the real selling point: while they seem cheesy out of context, when Moore sings "you lived in these clouds with lightning in your feet", he sings it with such innocence that you can't help but feel a little ashamed that you can't muster the same kind of emotion.

While production is of minimal importance on a recording as simplistic as this, it should be noted that it's done about as tastefully as possible. The sound quality is good, but not too good, which is appropriate when dealing with such a live sounding band. The only qualm I have with this album is that it sounds exactly the same as their previous effort. This can be (mostly) overlooked though, because, really, what can you do to change up such a straight forward sound?

Bowerbirds' sound and delivery are, if nothing else, an acquired taste. What may seem boring and trivial upon first listen reveals layers of interesting content hidden beneath the surface. It just takes patience, a willingness to submit to their universe, and the ability to forget that you would have hated this when you were 18.

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