Album Review: Water and Bodies “Lightyear”

Band: Water and Bodies
Album: Light Year
Label: Eyos
Rating: 3.5 out of 5
http://www.waterandbodies.com

Kicking off your first full-length album with a song titled ‘Celebration Song’ is a bold move and a pretty strong case that your band is stoked about the wild, unknown future that comes with releasing a full-length.  This has been a project almost two years in the making for Portland, Oregon’s Water and Bodies and the payoff looks to be worth the effort.

Previously hailed as one of the hottest underground acts in America while still under the Kaddisfly name, the band decided to change their moniker and take their music in a more accessible direction.  As Kaddisfly, they wrote gigantic, beautiful, abstract compositions but have decided to tone down the size of the music for a raw, thumping, driving sound.

Anyone familiar with the vocals of Christopher Ruff will be pleased that he has kept his signature high-tenor vocals in check while toning down on the abstract lyrics.  This doesn’t mean that Ruff has cut the quizzical lyrics out completely, but the choruses are much simpler, easy to remember, and dare I say…easy to sing along to. Unfortunately, Ruff’s vocals can, at times, overpower the other instruments but this happens sparingly enough that it isn’t noticeably drowning out the rest of the band.

When the rest of the band is striking up you can tell that they’ve been playing together for a long time.  There is a refinement to the Water and Bodies sound that helps the songs mesh together without losing the aggressive and slightly frantic side.  On songs like “1980” and “Free World” not only is the band working overtime with irregular timing structures and odd progressions; their music turns into a tumultuously dancing melody.

As much as most of the album dances, there are portions that are downright dreary, transforming a beautiful ballerina into a left-footed half-wit.  The middle of the album, Parallels, Echoes, Returns, is a trudge through too heavily inspired late 90’s nu-grunge with few points of genius throughout. The album does manage to pick itself up off the floor with the title-track before breaking back into that fanciful dance with 1980.

For a band that has come out of the world of abstract rock, Water and Bodies have done a great job of making their music more accessible for the everyday listener without leaning too much into bland.  Light Year is a great way for Water and Bodies to kick off their album career, it asks just enough of the listener to keep you entranced but isn’t so involving that you feel the need to listen to the whole thing at once.  Their focus on crafting powerful individual songs on this album has paid off, they have managed to marry abstract and mainstream into a unique sound that is both beautiful and haunting.

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