Tuesday, 10 April 2012 04:57


Dead Oceans

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I first came across Raleigh folk/pop outfit Bowerbirds in a tactile sense three years ago when they did some live work for the Vienna cultural and media collective They Shoot Music. In a seemingly effortless canter, the trio walked and played their way around the fine Austrian capital showcasing songs off their second album, the 2009 effort Upper Air. Always impeccibly restrained, their thoughtful, unique brand of independent Americana and folk stylings blended in perfectly with their surroundings.

And so it is with their new record The Clearing, where each track presents itself as part of a seamless whole, a ride through nature, a document of not only musical virtuosity but intelligent songwriting. But the real story before its gestation period began was far from seamless and the break down in the personal relationship between principles Beth Tacular and Phillip Moore may have threatened to prematurely end the band itself. Thankfully for us they worked it out and eventually presented us with this fine album.

For the DIY couple Tacular and Moore, who have endured the break-up, Tacular's illness and hospitalisation and hand-built a cabin from scratch over the last couple of years, The Clearing ended up being the end product of an intensely emotional ride in a personal sense where the theme of the record became finding the strength to overcome adversity from within and without. The music style of Bowerbirds does lend itself to revealing a certain emotional intensity and The Clearing certainly incorporates elements of triumph and despair, light and dark, themes that come through loud and clear. That they portray that emotion inside the music yet produce it so effortlessly speaks volumes about the artistic talent on offer here.

The lush orchestration and percussive elements of The Clearing builds upon the spartan and skeletal approach of their first two records, Hymns For A Dark Horse and the aforementioned Upper Air. The rich potential of those two albums has been realised here and it is in all likelihood that the trials and tribulations that surrounded the band going into writing and making the record that gives it its special character. Recorded with Brian Joseph in Bon Iver's Wisconsin studio, the polish that marks the finished product, rather than muddying the waters, actually accentuates the human emotion and celebration of the natural world.

'Tuck The Darkness In' as its title suggests is indicative of that oscillation of thoughts between light and dark and masking the inevitable. What is also telling is its deliberate musical statement of growth in the Bowerbirds songwriting abilities as it shuffles inexorably towards its confident emotive conclusion. Album standout, the Tacoma sung 'In The Yard' begins with a pulsing beat and gorgeous chord structure and tracks the course of constructing that aforementioned house admist the natural world. The theme of nature is beautifully captured by the gorgeous harmonies at work the wistful instrumentation actually serves to transport you to that place of such tumult and wonder in the woods.

The plucky 'Walk The Furrows' extolls the worth of working through problems while 'Stitch The Hem' works through the difficulties of being on the edge financially and otherwise that stems from the decision to do things yourself; 'There's a hope that we have what we need'. Indeed, work, whether of the artistic, emotional or physical variety dominates The Clearing and is almost a lesson for those who think escaping from urban life is merely one big hoot. 'This Year' celebrates the seasons and the move from winter to spring and the optimistic relationship that is associated with our humanity; "I'm fairly sure we'll find a clearing in the forest of our hearts". But Moore soon reminds us in a subtle way that even out there in the woods there is no escape from the realities of the fallout from the decisions of powerful, short-sighted, selfish interests; "I'm not an activist, not in the purest sense, I'm not a pacifist, I know just which rules to bend".

'Brave World' opens with percussive effects sitting atop a couple of pensive piano chords as it then begins to quietly pulse away belying the metaphorical subject matter of impatience in imperfection. 'Hush' is a return to the paucity that existed on previous releases and even sports a little Latin inflluence through its second half. Indeed, the album ends up slowly ebbing away from its lush beginnings over its last few tracks. That's not a criticism, in fact it ends up being a strength. The sparse nature is again in evidence on 'Overcome With Light' which deliberately creates the space to go with its theme of introspection. Moore's guitar dominates here as he reassures, "Yes, we had some scrapes, but now it's right".

'Sweet Moment' continues the penchant Bowerbirds have for matching song titles with the feel of the music as beautiful cooing harmonies take centre stage. However, as if to confound that theory immediately, the careful and delicate blending of piano, guitar and flourishes of percussive brushes on the following track bely what 'Death Wish' has in store for us as foreboding horns and strings serve to finish the track with the appropriate mood. Closing track, 'As We Hurry On' serves as a perfect conclusion to the record as Moore sings about the importance of taking in the little things in life; "what we see under the sun is what we get'...we used to see the forest, now we see the trees".

The adoration of nature and do it yourself aethestic that drives the members of Bowerbirds in their private lives comes through in spades on The Clearing. Often, intensely personal musically journeys can often jar the senses and alienate the listener when overdone and overwrought. On top of this, many bands, who have made their reputation through resting on the sparse and restrained, once they have a few dollars to spend and plethora of musicians and instrumention to play with, actually end up overplaying their hand. Yet, not once does the band lose sight of who they are and why they ever existed in the first place. The Clearing serves as an example of how to use and own possibility rather than allow it to dominate and drown out what was once intended. As Moore sings the final line, "take your time with it, all of it", attention to detail both personally and artistically is something we should never lose sight of.

James Stocker - April 10, 2012


Bowerbirds Mini Documentary about The Clearing


Tuck The Darkness In

Bowerbirds (USA)
From the album, 'The Clearing', Dead Oceans.

Download here

Official Video


Overcome With Light

Bowerbirds (USA)
From the album, The Clearing, Dead Oceans.

Live on Sound Check

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November 24, 2015


Art Angels


Grimes Official

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2. California
3. SCREAM (feat. Aristophanes) [LISTEN]
4. Flesh Without Blood [VIDEO]
5. Belly Of The Beat
6. Kill V. Maim
7. Artangels
8. Easily
9. Pin
10. REALiTi (digital only)
11. World Princess Pt. II
12. Venus Fly (feat. Janelle Monae)
13. Life In The Vivid Dream
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November 17, 2015



Dark Skies Association / Night School Records

Molly Nilsson Facebook

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1. The Only Planet
2. 1995 [VIDEO]
3. H.O.P.E.
4. Mountain Time [VIDEO]
5. Bunny Club
6. Intermezzo: Palimpest Galore
7. Happyness [VIDEO]
8. Lovers Are Losers [VIDEO]
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November 10, 2015



Drag City

Joanna Newsom Label Page

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4. Goose Eggs
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November 3, 2015


Best Blues


Small Black Official

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October 27, 2015


Fading Frontiers


Deerhunter Official

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4. Duplex Planet
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6. Leather And Wood
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9. Carrion

October 20, 2015


Terrible Truths

Bedroom Suck

Terrible Truths Facebook

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October 13, 2015


The Agent Intellect

Hardly Art

Protomartyr Facebook

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October 6, 2015


Half Free


U.S Girls Facebook

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September 29, 2015


Have You In My Wilderness


Julia Holter Facebook

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September 22, 2015


Sun Coming Down


Ought Facebook

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September 15, 2015


It's You

Spunk / Felte

Gold Class Facebook

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September 8, 2015



Terrible Records

Empress Of Facebook

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10. Icon [VIDEO]

September 1, 2015


Illegals In Heaven

Bedroom Suck / Fire Records

Blank Realm Facebook

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1. No Views On It
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3. Cruel Night
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August 25, 2015


Poison Season


Destroyer Facebook

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August 18, 2015


Depression Cherry

Sub Pop / Bella Union

Beach House Official

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1. Levitation
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August 11, 2015


Down Time

Bedroom Suck / Fire Records

Totally Mild Facebook

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1. Christa
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August 4, 2015




Evvol Official

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1. I See You (I Am You)
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3. Siruius A
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July 28, 2015




Telepathe Facebook

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July 21, 2015


Liminal Zones

Sonic Masala / Strange Pursuits 

Day Ravies Facebook

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July 14, 2015


The Wild Animals In My Life

Iron Lung

Flesh World Facebook

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1. To Lose Me
2. Just To Tear Me Down
3. The Wild Animals In My Life
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5. Poolside Boys
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7. Your Love Is Like A House
8. Here In The Dark


July 7, 2015


Stay Wild

Self Released

Tearjerker Official

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1. Stay Wild
2. Phone
3. Mind
4. The Gardiner
5. Parling Lot
6. It Takes Time
7. Baseball
8. Obviously Wrong
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June 30, 2015


I Will See No Moon No Sky

Raw Onion Records

Crystal Shipsss Official

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1. Metal
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3. Drum
4. Crown [LISTEN]
5. II
6. Head


June 23, 2015




Noah Official

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1. sivutie
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June 16, 2015


Apocalypse, girl

Sacred Bones

Jenny Hval Official

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1. Kingsize
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June 9, 2015


Jaakko Eino Kalevi

Weird World Record Co.

Jaakko Eino Kalevi Facebook

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June 2, 2015




BOAN Facebook

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Stream whole album here

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May 26, 2015


Le Voyage Éternal

Self Released

Corridor Facebook

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May 19, 2015



Self Released

Liza Anne Official

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1. Lost
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5. Room
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May 12, 2015


Crash, Burn & Cry

Crunchy Frog

ONBC Facebook

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2. White Trash
3. Call It What You Want
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6. One Of These Days Pt. 1
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10. One Of These Days Pt. 2


May 5, 2015



ExcelsiorPolyvinyl / Full Time Hobby

Jacco Gardner Official

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2. Grey Lanes
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7. Before The Dawn
8. Hypnophobia
9. Make Me See
10. All Over


April 28, 2015


American Wrestlers 

American Wrestlers Facebook

Fat Possum

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5. The Rest Of You
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7. Cheapshot
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April 21, 2015


Un Autre Voyage

Holodeck Records

Marie Davidson Facebook

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3. Kidnap You In The Desert
4. Insomnie
5. Balade aux USA
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April 14, 2015


Escape From Evil

Ribbon Music

Lower Dens Official

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1. Sucker's Shangri-La
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3. To Die In L.A.
4. Quo Vadis
5. Your Heart Still Beating
6. Electric Current
7. I Am The Earth
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9. Company
10. Societe Anonyme


April 7, 2015


Ivy Tripp

Waxahatchee Official

Merge / Wichita

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2. Under A Rock
3. Poison
4. La Loose
5. Stale By Noon
6. The Dirt
7. Blue
8. Air
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11. Summer Of Love
12. Half Moon
13. Bonfire

March 31, 2015


Asunder, Sweet And Other Distress


Godspeed You! Black Emperor Facebook

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1. Peasantry Or 'Light! Inside Of Light'
2. Lambs' Breath
3. Asunder, Sweet
4. Piss Crowns Are Trebled


March 24, 2015


Sometimes I Sit And Think, And Sometimes I Just Sit

Courtney Barnett Official

Milk! / Marathon Artists / Mom + Pop

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3. An Illustration Of Loneliness (Sleepless In NY)
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10. Kim's Caravan
11. Boxing Day Blues


March 17,  2015



Hand Drawn Dracula

Etiquette Facebook

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1. Pleasantries
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March 10, 2015


Ripe 4 Luv

Slumberland Records

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2. Ripe 4 Luv (Official Video)
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8. Wrong Crowd (feat. Jef Barbera)


March 3, 2015



P.W. Elverum & Sun Ltd.

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1. Sauna
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February 24, 2015


No Cities To Love

Sub Pop

Sleater-Kinney Official

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February 17, 2015



Ghost Records

Casa Del Mirto Facebook

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Stream album here

1. Paralyzed
2. Invisible (feat. Avalon Omega)
3. Reflex
4. Where You Stand
5. Pressure
6. Last Blue Wind
7. A Picture Of
8. Butterfly
9. 8 (feat. Aaron Larcher)
10. What I See Inside Of Me
11. Still


February 10, 2015


Natalie Prass


Natalie Prass Official

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1. My Baby Don't Understand Me
2. Bird Of Prey
3. Your Fool
4. Christy
5. Why Don't You Believe In Me
6. Violently
7. Never Over You
8. Reprise
9. It Is You


February 3, 2015


On Your Own Love Again

Drag City

Jessica Pratt Label Page

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1. Wrong Hand
2. Game That I Play
3. Strange Melody
4. Greycedes
5. Moon Dude
6. Jacquelyn In The Background
7. I've Got A Feeling
8. Back, Baby
9. On Your Own Love Again


January 27th, 2015


Viet Cong

Flemish Eye / Jagjaguwar

Viet Cong Bandcamp

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1. Newspaper Spoons
2. Pointless Experience
3. March Of Progress
4. Bunker Buster
5. Continental Shelf
6. Silhouettes
7. Death




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