Long-awaited full-length release comes to life in journey through uncertainty
Flashback to a year where the world was first introduced to a front-facing iPhone camera, Les Misérables was released on the silver screen and Lebron James won his first championship. All of these events seem so far from today. This is exactly how fans of Bowerbirds felt until this month. Featuring three members now—Phillip Moore, Beth Tacular and Yan Westerlund—they have come a long way in terms of musicality and membership since their birth in North Carolina. With their release of a new poetic, highly introspective album entitled becalmyounglovers, it ends an eight-year period without a full-length project from them. This album functions as a depiction of uncertainty in love, but also as a hopeful beacon that you can come through better and stronger.
The album begins with “SBSF,” an introspective and alternative take on a fading love. “I wonder where the hours went,” mourns Moore behind the kicky drumbeat interlaced with electric guitar riffs. These, in tandem with the textured keyboard, give this song a certain flair that would not find itself out of place on the Alternative charts. This track is a great example of the poetic structure this album often takes with shorts verses that function like stanzas and choruses that behave as if it were a callback to an earlier line.
Southern rock instrumentation, including steel guitars and even a hint of harmonica, gives way to another grooving alternative-sounding jam in the second song, “Seems Impossible.” In another song about the conclusion of good, Moore mentions the “two old souls at the end of times everything has to burn.” This sort of volatility in his lyrics is contrasted by the absolutely steady rhythm that continuously drives throughout the song, giving it a stability, while everything burns.
“Pennies” sounds as if it belongs in a nursery or a romantic comedy. An acoustic guitar teams up with a choked ukulele to complement Moore and Tacular’s airy vocals reassuring their audience that “we might have a chance in hell” “by throwing that penny down the dark well.” “All This Rain” also sets the mood for a quiet night ahead. This song features only a piano and Moore who overlays his own voice to create the soft harmonies that carry the melody along. Both of these songs showcase their wide-ranged ability to create different sorts of songs with different sorts of moods.
The Carolina in Bowerbirds breaks through in “The Rules.” A steadily rocking track, the electric guitars that are used are vaguely reminiscent of the legendary Southern Rock bands Lynyrd Skynyrd and ZZ Top. However, the track is slightly slower than one would imagine from these two hard-rocking groups. The intentionality and the introspection are alive and well, even in their more intense songs.
“Moon Phase,” as of now, is the most popular track on the album, which makes sense with it being the leading single before it was released. However, all of its popularity cannot be placed on the back of its past as a single. This song, with its still-rhythmic drum patterns and acoustic guitars, sounds like the soundtrack for a rooftop moon gazing. Again, just as in every other song on the album, Moore’s comforting voice offers a friend in the “moon phase.”
Another single, and more popular song, follows: “The Party.” While still staying true to the quiet introspection that this album holds, they opt for a poppier version of their music. A quicker tempo is taken without compromising the same steadied feeling. This song again deals with loss as the last words of the song ring out—“I only see all that’s left, I only see all the demons.”
“Treasure” is one of the most fun, interesting and likeliest-to-be-the-favorite songs on the album. Different instrumentation is featured, including Motown-sounding keyboards, a bass guitar and a less rhythmic drum beat. In addition to this, it seems as if Moore leaves behind the scales and notes that are classically included in folk songs, and he uses a completely different sound from the previous problems.
This song was a good way to set up the final song on the album, “Every Life.” Beginning with piano chords that don’t sound like they go together, Moore’s voice settles the tension and eases the song into its first verse. What the rest of the song finds are these same chords repeated with this same rhythmic drum flow. Every now and then, high-pitched synths texture the atmosphere around Moore’s voice. “Every Life” sums up the entire album with a look into himself, a slowed but groovy beat and a calming presence in the face of uncertainty.
becalmyounglovers can be appreciated on a few levels, but there are some places where work needs to be done. For instance, the lyrics are phenomenal. Not only are they meaningful and carry weight to them, but they are structured in a way where it is incredibly easy to get the message that is trying to be put forth. This being said, the lack of creativity between each song is slightly disappointing. With the exception of a couple, most of these tracks featured the same instruments creating the same sort of rhythm and mood that had been created on the previous track. This is not a bad album by any means, it’s a pretty good album holistically; however, when listened through in one sitting, the songs seem to blend together in a way that is not conducive to Bowerbirds trying to get their point across.