Track: Bowerbirds' "Northern Lights" | Music | Indy Week
INDY Week's music blog

Archives | RSS

Thursday, May 14, 2009

Track: Bowerbirds' "Northern Lights"

Posted by on Thu, May 14, 2009 at 11:39 AM

click to enlarge Bowerbirds: Phil Moore and Beth Tacular
  • Bowerbirds: Phil Moore and Beth Tacular

“Northern Lights,” in Bowerbirds nature-speak, is like a bouquet of fireflies on a still, moonless night for those who are pro-Martin Stephenson, pro-love song, and pro-Band.

In 1990, post-punk Scottish singer-songwriter Stephenson recorded “Big North Lights,” a gentle stream of a tune that pivoted on the line “Northern lights are humble lights my friend.” Until the release of “Northern Lights,” Stephenson had the honor of writing the loveliest and, well, most humble song to reference the northern lights. It’s now a tie.

Love songs work best when they're subdued and private, and you feel a little privileged to be given a peek—the opposite of someone professing his or her undying (and most likely fleeting) love by screaming in the middle of Grand Central Station. “I don’t need from you a waterfall of careless praise, and I don’t need a trophy for all the games I play," sings Phil Moore, setting up the quiet clincher: “But all I want is your eyes in the morning as we wait for a short while.” It’s maybe the most subtly romantic line since “And you’re standing here beside me, I love the passing of time.”

And the music behind the feelings, which seems to be constructed of old timber, echoes The Band at its rural-hymn best. There’s plenty of open space, leaving room for a recurring acoustic guitar lick that’s as simple as it is instantly memorable. A sun shower of parlor piano sprinkles down, as if Richard Manuel could be sprinkling it himself from above. Let’s call it “Northern Lights-Southern Girl.”

[Disclosure: Music Editor Grayson Currin released the Bowerbirds first LP, Hymns for a Dark Horse, on his former record label.]

Pin It


Subscribe to this thread:

Add a comment

INDY Week publishes all kinds of comments, but we don't publish everything.

  • Comments that are not contributing to the conversation will be removed.
  • Comments that include ad hominem attacks will also be removed.
  • Please do not copy and paste the full text of a press release.

Permitted HTML:
  • To create paragraphs in your comment, type <p> at the start of a paragraph and </p> at the end of each paragraph.
  • To create bold text, type <b>bolded text</b> (please note the closing tag, </b>).
  • To create italicized text, type <i>italicized text</i> (please note the closing tag, </i>).
  • Proper web addresses will automatically become links.

Latest in Music

Twitter Activity


Thank you so much for these clips; it was a special show.

by Gee Funk on Video: William Tyler and Jake Xerxes Fussell Team Up in Durham (Music)

Billy Strings was amazing as well!

by Brian Moyer on A Look Back at Merlefest 2016 (Music)

Most Read

© 2016 Indy Week • 201 W. Main St., Suite 101, Durham, NC 27701 • phone 919-286-1972 • fax 919-286-4274
RSS Feeds | Powered by Foundation