The Clearing is the third album by the Bowerbirds, and as is often the case for bands that have found steady success, they had more time and better resources to make it. This is a bigger record, then, with bolder sounds and a broader scope. Thing is, these songs don’t cede to the increased production demands. The guitars and strings, codas and bridges simply make these thoughts more urgent, more vital and more necessary, but not one bit less permanent.
Upper Air is the product of months spent away from nature and away from home, touring endlessly with the likes of Bon Iver, Phosphorescent and John Vanderslice and on their own, on both sides of the Atlantic. The fodder for songwriting has changed, and so have the songs. Upper Air moves away from the singular sound and sentiment; each and every song on Upper Air is a journal entry that stands on its own, each a unique, beautiful piece. The arrangements are subtle: acoustic guitars, organ, piano, autoharp, violin, percussion, upright bass and more are used throughout the recording. Usually though, it is just a few of these instruments delicately supporting Moore’s voice, the anchor of every song. Everyone struggles when they try to describe this music, including us, but we’ll try: it has the spirit of Richard and Linda Thompson, the currency of Devendra Banhart, the addictively sweet melodicism of Iron & Wine, but it churns with an underlying energy closer to a Beirut or something farther out, more raw, more wild. The most notable part is this: The songs don’t hide behind the instrumentation, the deontological conviction, or, frankly, anything; and that is what makes Upper Air undeniable, simple, and breathtaking.
Only once every ten years or so does one hear a new band this good, this bursting with ideas, this audibly in love with music? It is beyond stunning. This band is the complete package.” Ears tend to prick up when a record review sings praises like these, especially when the praises come from the Mountain Goats’ John Darnielle, as they did recently on his Last Plane to Jakarta website hailing the Bowerbirds’ debut album, Hymns for a Dark Horse. Dead Oceans is overjoyed to be sharing the sounds of Bowerbirds with listeners worldwide. Hymns for a Dark Horse was originally released in July of 2007 on Burly Time Records, and now will be issued in an expanded form featuring two bonus tracks. Upon the initial release of the album, Pitchfork graced it with an 8.4 and "recommended" stamp of approval, saying: “[Bowerbirds] churn out deceptively pleasing folksongs about plants and animals and the unforgivable things we do to them... hypnotically pretty and a little bit weird, characteristics of the very best kind of Americana music. Bowerbirds do for backyards what the Hold Steady's done for parking lots-- translated place into sound.