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Bowerbirds: The Clearing (Dead Oceans) 

Bowerbirds' third album is like a table that's been reset from a simple homemade breakfast to an elegant dinner.

click to enlarge cd2.jpg

The band's raw talent and charm shine through, untouched, yet there's a clear upgrade that goes beyond any cosmetic change. Lush production and arrangements do more on The Clearing than boost the song presentation; they give the Bowerbirds a higher plane to shoot for in terms of songwriting.

The shifts within the songs are fantastic—they swell with strings and horns, turning on a dime back to a simple finger-picked nylon guitar. There are electric guitars and booming drums and piano and more, but there's never any jumble. Given so much more to work with, Phil Moore and Beth Tacular deliver a tight and professional sound, never too much, never too little.

Opener "Tuck the Darkness In" exemplifies the album's supple arrangements: Why make a song quiet or loud when it can be both? The crescendoing outro never compromises the song's basic melody or structure.

"Walk the Furrows" and "Stitch the Hem" are both complex and shifting songs wrapped around simple cores, celebrating the rustic, close-to-the-Earth domesticity that Phil and Beth embrace.

On The Clearing, Bowerbirds have managed to leave behind a good deal of their quiet woods-iness, without altering the band's fundamental essence. Their songs live so well with a bit more color.

More by Eric Swedlund

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