The Clearing, the last album of beloved folk band Bowerbirds, was released in 2012. Partially recorded in Bon Iver’s storybook Wisconsin studio, it was an album of intense renovation, full of songs about tearing things down and putting them back together. The music critic Amanda Petrusich crowned it with a 7.9 score in Pitchfork and described the music as “precise, artful construction.”
In the intervening years, much has changed: Bowerbirds, previously a trio, split up. Phil Moore and Beth Tacular had a child, then ended their romantic and artistic partnership. New endings, beginnings, and renovations materialized.The music industry transformed into a very different animal than it had been in 2006, when Moore began recording as Bowerbirds. The world as we knew it was torn down.
This week, the Durham-based Moore, who continues to play as Bowerbirds, has released new songs “Hazel Eyes” and “Endless Chase.” The eight-year wait is worth it: both songs are lush with instrumentation and introspection. They’re inspired by the break-up and by being uprooted, but they’re grounded in a rich lyricism and Annie Dillard-esque nods to the natural world.
Moore’s voice is gently reassuring, as if he just picked up from where he left off a decade ago—but, if you listen closely, there’s new assurance in it. You can hear the years.
“Hazel Eyes,” Moore writes in a new bio, mined boyhood memories from Florida where he would visit grandparents during the summer and take long walks by a drifty, palmetto-lined riverbank. On those walks, he’d often imagine the future and his place in it. “Hazel Eyes” addresses those expectations with care, nesting them in the adult realization that, as he puts it, “we’re kind of all in a capitalist rat race.”
“Endless Chase” has a similar maturity and wide-eyed joy as Moore untangles life’s uncertainties (“I spent most of my time working out / How I fit in time and space.”) In the accompanying self-directed video, released yesterday, Moore is filmed biking—occasionally with no hands—around verdant Durham streets.
There’s a sense of real freedom, though maybe one couched in the understanding that life doesn’t always turn out the way we expect. In a press release, Moore wrote that he intended the song to capture the “confidence of youth” and that, prior to filming the video, he hadn’t recently ridden a bike.
Not that anyone would be able to tell: Moore seems to navigate the bike, the new music, and the transition between 2012 and 2020 with a grace that is very nearly contagious.
Contact deputy arts and culture editor Sarah Edwards at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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