Seven months after their first album, the self-released Ears Will Pop & Eyes Will Blink, secured belated national retail distribution, L.A.‘s Bodies of Water is set to make waves with their sophomore effort, A Certain Feeling, and for those with a fondness for fine-tuned fusions of prog-rock, metal and choral music, multi-part arrangements, tempo and key changes, and ‘70s swinger ‘staches, that certain titular feeling will be one of elation. The band might be losing a drummer (Jessie Conklin has decided to exit following the album’s release), but Bodies of Water, led by husband-and-wife team David and Meredith Metcalf, could feasibly gain themselves an indie cult following in line with Arcade Fire and the Decemberists.
Certain Feeling opens with “Gold, Tan, Peach, and Grey,” which is modestly epic without sounding overly ambitious and is immediately followed by the simpler in structure but no less dense “Under the Pines.” There’s only a vague suggestion of what went on “under the pines,” but a salacious deep-woods conspiracy is hinted at and reinforced by David’s serpentine electric guitar solo. His killer skills on the axe are flaunted further on tracks like the urgent, end-of-days love song “Darling, Be Here,” which also happens to lament the love for one’s guitar and all other material things in the face of impending doom.
Bodies of Water take their sweet time setting up their songs, building them in dense layers, bending and peeling those layers back, and then folding them onto each other. “Even in a Cave” consists solely of one ominous verse seemingly about the kind of emotion that can’t be squashed even in a car wreck, Meredith’s plaintive and detached vocal surrounded by the creaking and banging of studio instruments before the song’s tectonic plates abruptly shift into full-blown Brazilian tropicália. Somewhat less nonsensical is the choral “Water Here,” which slows to an amoebic crawl, creeping out of the song’s roiling ocean and evolving into a handclappy, brass-filled land dance. The Latin-flavored song features sweetly melodic, Doors-style lead guitar licks and organ noodling, and its lyrics aptly self-describe Certain Feeling‘s distinct charms: “Now the noise is overlapping/What will echo back?”
Whatever individual parts of the album don’t succeed completely are smoothed over by Certain Feeling‘s wholesale fluidity, with simpler, shorter songs interspersed throughout. The subtly Morricone-esque “Only You” is slow and mournful—as any song titled “Only You” should be—and Meredith’s solo turn is appropriately strained when she sings, “I am trying/Ever harder/I am trying/To be near you.” “If I Were a Bell” is a meditation on the monotony and hardships of being a musical instrument that only a songwriter utterly devoted to their musical trade could conceive: “I have said the words/And I have made the noise so often/It has become strange and meaningless.” Certain Feeling might be a little strange, and sometimes even seemingly meaningless, but it’s also singular, rich and vast. And, well, it gives you that certain feeling.