For years I’ve heard the phrase “patience is a virtue” bandied around when waiting seemed to be borderline painful and no reward was in sight but in no case has my patience been as greatly reward than the Bowerbirds return with The Clearing. Since seeing them road-test a couple new songs about two years ago it’s certainly seemed like a rather long wait.
Anyone who’s heard Bowerbirds before is certainly familiar with their distinctive brand of nature-laden imagery and pristine, rambling pastoral sketches. But what sets The Clearing apart from its predecessors and makes it Bowerbirds’ best outing to date is perhaps its lack of immediacy. Bowerbirds have never been the type to play fast-and-loose with their big ideas before but The Clearing, utterly stacked with them, is the kind of album where more is revealed listen after listen – an album full of life-affirming awe-inspiring rumination.
From lead track “Tuck the Darkness In” to closer “Now We Hurry On”, the album is peppered with all sort of poetic lyricism, metaphor, arresting musical moments, and just about anything else you could possibly want in an album. There are numerous callbacks to the duo’s hard-work building a cabin in the wilderness not just in “In the Yard” where Beth Tacular takes lead vocals for the first time and details the building of their dream home but little words and phrases thrown here and there in virtually every song on the album. There’s also an “Olive Hearts”-esque fictitious narrative of murder and intrigue in the form of “Walk the Furrows”. And what really drives the duo’s beautiful lyricism home are the breathtaking musical moments – like a stream of heart-warming scalar “ah”-’s in “Walk the Furrows”.
What sets The Clearing apart from the Bowerbirds other albums is also in its embrace of the primitive – the onslaught of percussion on “Stitch the Hem” and “Hush”, the atypical rhythms, and “Hush” itself which functions as a sort of battle-call that wouldn’t be out of place in a tUnE-yArDs track. Which though Beth’s strongest vocal outing is still soft enough to be right at home in Bowerbirds less-grating style. Tracks like “Brave World” and “Now We Hurry On” feel like you’re gazing into the gaping maw of the Universe with their otherworldly composition and ethereal moments of awe-inducing wonder. Unsurprisingly these songs pack the most existential punch – coalescing in “Now We Hurry On”-‘s numerous enlightened moments: “We thought we’d have forever and now we hurry on” and ultimate resounding “Take your time with it, all of it, all of it”.
On The Clearing, Bowerbirds offer an album as textured and varied as the very world their pastoral hymns draw upon, assembling an all-star team of friends and collaborators to help realize not only their best work to date but no doubt an absolute knock out of an album in general. Grounded by the duo’s declarations of love to each other and the land we’re all apart of; with skyward-reaching vocals and purpose, The Clearing is an album of stunning beauty sure to resonate with each and every one of its listeners from intro to outro.
Get a taste of the album with album opener/first single "Tuck the Darkness In":
You can listen to the whole album on Spotify. If you like it, buy it. Seriously. Best decision you'll have made ever.