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UPPER AIR • Bowerbirds

Perhaps the most notable aspect of North Carolina indie band Bowerbirds is Beth Tacular's accordion. Much like an ancient underwater gurgling of a whale, her plodding melodies dwell within each song, a main instrument in the band's sound that consists of the acoustic guitar strumming of Phil Moore and a subdued percussion mostly played out on the low rumbling of a bass drum. Forget the merry polkas or any oompahs, Tacular's accordion harkens to an alternate realm filled with mystery and wonder. At first listen, it's difficult to even tell that what's she's playing is indeed accordion.

Although the tempo is picked up slightly on the band's sophomore release Upper Air (on Dead Oceans), the formula remains the same. Bowerbirds are all about soothing songs that go down easier than the molasses in ginger cookies. Actually, those cookies serve as a fitting analogy, because within these ten mellow tracks is a zesty spice much like ginger and despite the absence of over-the-top pop hooks, this album is ridiculously catchy. I find myself humming measures from exuberant "Beneath Your Tree" at random. Here Moore and Tacular's bittersweet duet--Moore has a sweetly trembling tenor that pairs gently alongside Tacular's unsentimental mezzo--takes center as the instrumentation drops to an almost null before coming back in full throttle to finish out the song. 

Quiet trembling moments nudge up against subdued explosions for a tremendously pleasurable sound collage that defies comparison. With Upper Air Bowerbirds have proven that they're going to stick around and aren't just another flash-in-the-pan indie gimmick where instruments other than guitar take center stage.
• Katy Henriksen


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