NPR logo 'In Our Talons,' a Homemade Gem

'In Our Talons,' a Homemade Gem

In Our Talons

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Monday's Pick

  • Song: "In Our Talons"
  • Artist: Bowerbirds
  • CD: Hymns for a Dark Horse
  • Genre: Folk-Rock

While some artists adopt a lo-fidelity, do-it-yourself vibe, Bowerbirds' members seem to embody it completely. Living in the North Carolina country in an old Airstream trailer, Phil Moore, Beth Tacular and Mark Paulson seem perfectly suited to strumming songs about crippled trees and sparrows. The band, whose members work as full-time artists, furniture makers and waiters, possesses a rustic, back-to-basics sound that shows Bowerbirds' attraction to the handcrafted and antiquated. It's not surprising that the microphones used on the album were all homemade.

Bowerbirds' members paint an idealized portrait of their pastoral lifestyle. hide caption

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With streaks of violins, clacking percussion and an out-of-tune parlor piano, Hymns for a Dark Horse paints an idealized portrait of Bowerbirds' pastoral lifestyle. The band deftly mixes intricate craftsmanship and spontaneity, coupling tender melodicism with discordant vocal lines and backwoods experimentation.

In the outstanding "In Our Talons," Moore bleeds out his emotions while appreciating the subtle beauty of nature. The pumping accordion and creaky guitars feel as fragile as the bending branches and creeping beetles he carefully describes. But as Bowerbirds' message becomes plainer — "It takes a lot of nerves to destroy this wondrous earth / We're only human, this at least we've learned" — the song morphs into a more straightforward lament. As the group acknowledges that everyone and everything is connected, "In Our Talons" starts to feel slightly naive. And yet in its simple, joyous melodies, the song's overarching sincerity feels strangely comforting.

Listen to yesterday's 'Song of the Day.'