Bowerbirds: The Clearing

    Following the release of sophomore record Upper Air in 2009, North Carolina folk trio Bowerbirds encountered three years of hardship: Their dog was run over by their tour van, and singers Phil Moore and Beth Tacular ended their long-time relationship. After Tacular came down with a mysterious near-death illness, the couple decided to get back together and record The Clearing — an emotional ode to adversity and the ways we overcome it.

    On “This Year,” Moore croons elegantly over subdued organ notes, building up the sound and then breaking it back down into a beautiful ambient atmosphere made up of ricocheting feedback.

    “Overcome With Light” is the shortest track on the album at three minutes, pairing intense bursts of simplistic strumming with Moore’s stripped-down vocal harmonies. “Hush” offers the same for Tacular’s seductive yet relentlessly dark vocals, which she confidently boasts over ominous vocal samples and an eclectic mix of instruments, from shakers to a vibraphone, easily making it the most unique and poignant track on the record.

    “Death Wish” brings the album to its darkest depths, invoking images of a funeral procession with its deep bass notes and solemn trumpet lines, finally fading into closer “Now We Hurry On,” a crushingly beautiful ballad that lingers for six minutes before it twinkles to its end like the opening notes of Wonka’s “Pure Imagination.” (7/10)

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