North Carolina's Bowerbirds take the prevailing indie-rock æsthetic — ornate, textured arrangements, clean vocal harmonies — and apply them to Southern gothic, Appalachian bluegrass, and folk. They're hardly the only band doing this sort of thing (see: Horse Feathers, Bonnie "Prince" Billy), and we may collectively be nearing our neo-folk saturation point.
But the 'Birds have an appeal that's tough to resist. Phil Moore is a sweet crooner, and his voice meshes nicely with that of accordionist Beth Tacular. Moore's guitar sounds as if it were being played off in the distance somewhere, especially when complemented by a low-booming bass drum — there are times when Upper Air could be some clandestine jam session in the wilderness. They also mix up the accompanying instrumentation: xylophones, strings, organs, piano.
The downside is that even with this variety, some songs sound indistinguishable from one another. "Northern Lights" and "Crooked Lust" are the two best, but "Silver Clouds" was the one I remembered most: the melody sounds lifted from somewhere I can't place. It's been both calming me down and driving me nuts.