Smile Politely

Album Review: Bowerbirds, Hymns for a Dark Horse

Although often grouped with the Devendra Banhart gypsy-folk circus, Bowerbirds’ Hymns For A Dark Horse is nowhere near as bloated or tangentially indulgent as all of Banhart’s records. Instead, Bowerbirds sound like they are coming straight from an Appalachian back porch, utilizing violin, acoustic guitar, upright bass, banjo, accordion, percussion, and piano, into a mix that comes out sounding like gloomy nature-based freak-folk. Sometimes the lead singer’s great male singing voice is backed with instrumentation that will recall even early Decemberists.

Like Mount Eerie, Joanna Newsom, Beirut, or Iron & Wine, Bowerbirds get a lot of their inspiration from the nature, in the romantic and literary sense, around us all.

The album opener, “Hooves,” is a solo acoustic affair with group backing vocals and accordions, which moves into the shanty acoustic jazz of “In Our Talons.” Next is “Human Hands,” maybe the key track on the album, and it is a great melancholy piano saloon song. I was very close to calling the album pretty front heavy, with the best songs on an excellent A-side, because eventually the rest all starts to sound familiar until “Olive Hearts,” the great album closer. So, despite an unfortunate track listing, there is plenty to enjoy on this record if you give it the chance.

  1. Hooves
  2. In Our Talons
  3. Human Hands
  4. Dark Horse
  5. Bur Oak
  6. My Oldest Memory
  7. The Marbled Godwit
  8. Slow Down
  9. The Ticonderoga
  10. Olive Hearts

Review: 6.4

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