Philip Moore and Beth Tacular were an item. And then they weren’t. But now they are again. And The Clearing was made after the two got back together. Cheesy love story? Well, the album is far from it.
The album is also the product of Moore and Tacular’s new perspective on their circumstance and surroundings after Tacular experienced a near death illness. Fittingly written in the open, expansive woods with minimal distraction, The Clearing is Bowerbirds clearing their slate and starting anew with fresh ideas. Not only does each track have a clear, structured storyline, the album as a whole explores various directions, venturing into many realms with interesting results.
“Tuck the Darkness In” is a warm welcome opening track. Swells of harmonies build up to an already established chorus with lush orchestral sound. The track also hints at what awaits in the rest of the album: multi-layered tracks that unfold from a small bud to a complex creature in several stages. “In the Yard” and “Stitch the Hem” both notably pull this off with the incorporation of well-layered orchestral leads and motifs.
However, it’s the the climactic peak of the album, “This Year,” that epitomizes The Clearing. With a slow crescendo, Moore’s vocals float over a simple, lonesome guitar that starts out with an ambiguous tonality of a seemingly minor key. “Just come down from a high fever,” Moore sings, alluding to hurdles in his real life. A hollow, rich drum provides a firm foundation for the instrumental layering that follows, cutting out to a short break almost devoid of time before hitting again with full force to usher in an all-mighty chorus. Yet, the track ends again on Moore’s sole voice, now over a driving piano progression with an established key signature in a major key.
Another standout, “Hush,” exhibits another great feature of The Clearing: simply well-composed delivered on an array of instruments that complement each other beautifully. Tacular heads the vocals on this one, providing a choir of warm harmonies. A wonderfully playful guitar solo dances over an off-kilter beat before Tacular’s chorus takes over in a skip-happy (slightly hobbling step with the offbeat time signature), driving race to the finish.
But the stars of the album might be the simpler letters of endearment, heavily influenced by Moore and Tacular’s rekindled relationship. Moore sings “Yes, we had some scrapes / but now it’s right” in “Overcome with Light” and in the even more sparse album closer “Now We Hurry On,” he sings, “We thought we had forever / and now we hurry on. / And what we miss, we miss / And what we see is what we get,” referring to the couples’ new outlook after a traumatic experience. The latter ends on a tinkering of piano blips that resembles a minimalist sparkling of a reflection of the rest of the album. Contrasting the richer orchestral swells earlier on, the track brings everything full circle back to the simple guitar strums of the opening track to conclude Bowerbirds’ third LP on a note of closure.
Listen to ‘The Clearing’ in its entirety here.