Bodies of Water | A Certain Feeling (Secretly Canadian)

cd_bodies-of-water.jpgThis ensemble utilizes an expansive, multi-voice approach, arrangements that range from folksy to downright proggy.







It’s a glorious thing when music creates a genuine communal vibe. You know, a sense that we’re all in this wacky universe together, and that the music-making process can be a way of taking collective measure of both the soaring passions and daunting frustrations we all share. This "communal" approach characterizes a number of the most interesting bands around these days, including Danielson, Akron/Family, the Golden Ball and Everthus the Deadbeats. Bodies of Water can be officially added to that list, as their second album, A Certain Feeling, is a warm and inclusive communal gem.

The band is based in Los Angeles, but there’s nothing particularly Californian about its sound. Instead, this ensemble utilizes an expansive, multi-voice approach, arrangements that range from folksy to downright proggy (with tropicalia seasoning here and there), and a compellingly non-specific spiritual bent to create a sound that’s fresh and vibrant. Married couple David and Meredith Metcalf are the ringleaders, alternating lead vocals and expressing just the right depth of emotionality in the nine compositions that make up this disc. They’re joined by an old school friend, Kyle Gladden; Meredith’s best friend, drummer Jessie Conklin; an effective horn section and several other contributing players.

It’s palpable in the music that these people like each other, and love what they’re doing. There’s something festive and celebratory in these grooves that could only result from musicians truly united in their creative cause. The wordless backing vocals in the opening "Gold, Tan, Peach, and Grey" not only soar with joy, but evoke the passion of gospel music without the excess from which the genre frequently suffers. The Bowie-like voice of Mr. Metcalf adds intrigue as well. In fact, the happy Metcalf twosome offers a delightful male-female vocal combo throughout the album. On the organ-laced "Under the Pines," they wed that sound to a surprising prog rock-style riff and some powerhouse drumming, to memorable effect.

Meredith goes it alone vocally on the nakedly expressive "Only You"; the tart, vulnerable sound of her voice is wonderfully organic, served well by the fairly sparse but atmospheric arrangement. The aesthetic vagueness of  "Water Here" is commendable, as the song lyrically deals with water and weather in an evocative manner that’s open to interpretation. But what truly amazes about this track is how it starts off kind of Polyphonic Spree-ish, and quite unexpectedly turns into a corking good Talking Heads-style foot-tapper, complete with horns and an extended ensemble chorus. Dazzling, really.

The solemn, hymn-like "Keep Me On" is thoroughly contemplative, but what you notice most is the remarkable restraint in both lyrics and music; this band holds back as much as they pour out, and that’s a tricky balance that they get just right. And how about the kick-ass rocker "Darling, Be Here"—where the heck did that come from? Danielson meets Neil Young in rockin’ mode, anyone? And the fabulous "If I Were a Bell," the album’s longest song, again enters T. Heads territory, but only if Ennio Morricone, Akron/Family and a few other pioneers were riding in the wagon, too. Some spirited journey, folks!

Bodies of Water is without doubt a fascinating, innovative band. A Certain Feeling gives you just that: a feeling of awe that a group can serve up so many surprises while simultaneously referencing a host of other worthy musicians and performing with such uncynical, communal joy. Take me to the river, drop me in this "water" any time, man. A- | Kevin Renick

RIYL: Danielson (without the falsetto vocals), Polyphonic Spree, Os Mutantes

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