What to make of Bodies of Water? The LA band's second album is at once huge and intricate, ambitious and organic, ageless and fresh. It's also sweepingly dramatic, yet it retains an intimacy dating back to when newlyweds David and Meredith Metcalf first set about recording songs on a computer tucked into a closet.
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That act of musical curiosity begat a proper quartet—David on guitar, Meredith on keys, Kyle Gladden on bass and Jessie Conklin on drums—and last summer's self-released Ears Will Pop & Eyes Will Blink. A record deal with Secretly Canadian now brings us A Certain Feeling, an album that jumps off the pages (so to speak) from its first few seconds.
Opener "Gold, Tan, Peach, and Grey" is gorgeously ornate, with a church-y majesty that could encourage Arcade Fire comparisons. Bodies of Water aren't so easy to pigeonhole, though. Not unlike recent Merge Records addition Oakley Hall, the band swirl far too many ideas and influences together for us to pick them apart. For every glint of cosmic country, girl-group bliss, krautrock-ish instrumental exploration or gospel build-up, there's something that sends our initial conclusions tumbling to the floor.
"Water Here," for example, plunges into a twilight of horn-kicked funk halfway through its six minutes, growing jerky and shouty by the end to recall Tom Tom Club as much as Tilly and the Wall. Here and elsewhere, the Metcalfs' often-unison singing makes things seem denser and more vigorous, contributing to the overall larger-than-life pomp.
At the same time, these drastic wardrobe changes can sometimes keep the listener at arm's length from Bodies of Water's mythic booming. Perhaps it takes seeing the band live—for which they add another drummer, strings, horns and more—to feel truly at home with such seismic songwriting.