June 10, 2012

“The best songs of North Carolina’s Bowerbirds have always seemed eternal. Coruscated by Beth Tacular’s bird song and Phil Moore’s environmentalist empathy, “In Our Talons” (off Bowerbirds’ Hymns for a Dark Horse) was, at its core, a quest for solidarity in a world of closing shadows. Upper Air’s “Northern Lights” painted a pained portrait of love shrouded in doubt as perfectly as Cash, Dylan or Cohen ever have. These felt like more than songs; they felt like treasures. 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, with bolder sounds, a broader scope, and more complicated songs. “Tuck the Darkness In,” for example, surges in its final two minutes with a wall of electric guitars and drums, while other tracks feature restless vibraphones, pianos and drums. 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.”

The band headlines Smalls This Wednesday with a solo set from Basia Bulat to open the show. As mentioned previously, I am really jazzed for this gig. My thanks to Phil and Beth for participating in this edition of First/Last.

  • The first album you ever bought?
  • Beth Tacular: Milli Vanilli’s “Girl You Know It’s True”.
  • Philip Moore: Jesus Jones’ “Doubt”.
  • Your last album bought?
  • Here We Go Magic’s newest album.
  • Favorite album of all time?
  • Beth: U2’s “Achtung Baby”.
  • Phil: Nirvana’s “Nevermind”.
  • Least favorite/most disappointing album?
  • Beth: Milli Vanilli, “Girl You Know It’s True” (they didn’t even sing!).
  • Phil: Something by Amy Grant that I bought at…(see next question).
  • First concert attended?
  • Beth: Sting.
  • Phil: Amy Grant.
  • Last concert?
  • Damien Jurado/JBM.
  • Favorite concert ever?
  • Beth: A free party in London, UK. Crossbones were DJ’ing, New Year’s Eve, 1998.
  • Phil: Stumbleweed, Postmen and Butterfunk at Gardiner Lounge, Grinnell College, circa 1993.
  • Least favorite concert?
  • Bowerbirds, Primavera Festival, Pitchfork Stage, 2008. The sound was REALLY BAD. We all had mini-panis, and then went and watched Neil Young, Aphex Twin, Squarepusher, SunnO)), Sonic Youth, and ten other bands and totally forgot about it.
  • Any thoughts, experiences about Pittsburgh?
  • The first time we drove into Pittsburgh, we were actually shocked by how beautiful it is. We had imagined it would be sort of grubby and nondescript (which is what we imagine most towns to be before we see them), for some reason, but it was breathtaking.

Thanks, guys. Can’t wait to finally see you play again.