Upper Air's catchy, melodic folk pop deviates little from the portrait successfully captured on Bowerbirds' 2007 debut, Hymns for a Dark Horse. Core members Phil Moore and Beth Tacular (and friends) ushered in a breath of fresh North Carolinian air in stylish, bare arrangements on that breakout LP—an outing praised in most indie-rock circles, particularly upon its 2008 rerelease on Dead Oceans.
On Upper Air, Bowerbirds' 10 productions are grounded again in simple instruments and omnipresent harmonies. Tacular's accordion keys coat what often sounds like a single acoustic guitar track and inconspicuous percussion; both she and Moore radiate confidence in their vocals despite the meager base of these songs. The faster-moving duet "Beneath Your Tree" is a sharp one-off, with Tacular offering a whole solo verse rather than just pairing with Moore, as she most frequently does. From "Beneath Your Tree," as well as the carefree rock of the The Band's Music From Big Pink–like "Northern Lights," calls a band that has eluded typecasting, all the while adhering closely to a humble cache of instruments.
[4 out of 5 stars]