Monday, June 22, 2009

Upper Air

2009 is definitely the year for sophomore albums, as a ton of artists have been releasing incredible follow-ups to some not-so-incredible debuts. Acts like Bat For Lashes, YACHT, and Antony & The Johnsons have been straying far away from the common sophomore slump and producing some of their best material to date. Well, Bowerbirds are no exception, and this July they'll hop on the bandwagon with their second and vastly superior album, Upper Air.
Taking cues from other successful freak-folkers like early Animal Collective and Dirty Projectors, Bowerbirds craft an acoustic album of emotive guitar strums and heartfelt, melancholy vocals from front-duo Phil Moore and Beth Tacular. I'm currently listening to the album again after having a rather intimate session with AC's sorely underrated Campfire Songs, and I'm noticing some uncanny similarities: for one, the interplay between harsh, rapid chord-strumming and softer, glistening, arpeggiated plucks. Of course, the songs here are much more structured than the whispery, minimalistic naturalism of Campfire Songs, but the same sort of feeling is expressed through the instrumentation. Others might also notice the similarity between Moore's voice and that of Dave Longstreth, and the musical arrangements definitely resemble those on the recent DP masterpiece Bitte Orca. Despite all these comparisons, though, Bowerbirds manage to forge a sound of their own through the use of more traditional folk instruments like accordions, piano, woodblocks, and flutes. They also sometimes add in a heavy bass drum sound, of which I'm a huge fan. I can't really pick out any tracks to recommend since I would end up listening all 10, but I will say I was struck hard by the opener, "House Of Diamonds," and again by the penultimate "Crooked Lust." Even if you weren't a fan of 2007's Hymns For A Dark Horse, this album is still definitely worth your time, so give it a listen. You won't regret it.

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