Originality, it seems, is becoming increasingly difficult to find in the current era of music. The world of pop music is dominated by autotuned, radio ready songs aimed mainly at tweens and teens. The rock industry is equally dominated by crunching, downtuned guitars and largely indecipherable cookie monster growls. This applies across the board, whether one is listening to metalcore, deathcore, black metal or any other major subgenre of the rock world. Even the world of punk has gone increasingly down that path. And even in the world of rap, so many songs cover the same themes from one to the next. That’s not to say that every single pop act, rock band or rap artist is the same as the last. But audiences will agree that it seems increasingly difficult to find an act that truly stands out. On June 24th, North Carolina based indie rock act Bombadil will show once again that among the unoriginal music that pollutes the seas of the music industry, original and creative music does exist. That is thanks to the upcoming re-issue of the band’s 2009 album Tarpits and Canyonlands. Being that Bombadil is an indie act, even the band’s current fans may not be so familiar with this record. There are those that have never heard Bombadil’s music, either. Taking into consideration both this and the show of pure creativity and originality on the part of the band here, Tarpits and Canyonlands becomes all the more of a joy to experience. The band proves this right off the top with the album’s opener, ‘I Am.’
‘I Am’ is so enjoyable primarily for its overall composition. The song is short and simple. Its total run time comes in at only one minute and thirty-two seconds. It is short. That goes without saying. But even in that short time, there is so much going on within the song. The call and response on the part of the band members is the most notable of the many things going on in the song. The band members sing back and forth against the song’s equally simple piano line, “I am/Building you a pyramid/Lost in the sand.” It’s not just a call and response, either. The lyrics are sung in rounds, too. All of that is balanced with the introduction of one final line, which is accompanied by a guitar line that compliments both the piano and the vocals. That the band was able to balance so much in one song—and one of such short duration—is quite the statement about the band’s musicianship. That the band would even think to construct the song in such fashion as it did instead is even more of a statement. It shows real creativity. It makes the song a double threat. It’s creative and original, and it’s technically sound. So while it is short, it is also quite the statement of what listeners can expect from this album. It isn’t the only example of what makes this album a must hear, either.
Late in the album, the members of Bombadil present to listeners what is one of the most deeply emotional pieces in the record in the form of ‘Marriage.’ This song is just as simple, on the surface, as ‘I Am.’ Yet in its simplicity, there is so much going on. Pianist/vocalist Stuart Robinson presents a musical story of a couple that has been married for allegedly twenty years. It is a story of what happens after the happily ever after of the big wedding and those first years together. And to say that it is moving would be an understatement. He presents the couple asking one another how one feels about the other “after the two hundredth time” of a given situation would he or she still feel the same about the other. It starts off with supposedly the unnamed wife asking her husband, “What would you say of marriage/After the two hundredth time/I told the same joke/And then I broke/Your favorite watch/With my heel?” The husband offers his own situation, asking “What would you say of true love/After the two hundredth time/I love you/And then I blew/Your confidence/That was in my past/I thought you knew/I thought you knew/This was/Marriage.” This back and forth goes back and forth across the course of the song’s two-minute and thirty-five second run time. It is set against the gentle yet almost bittersweet strains of Robinson’s piano playing. It would have been easy for Robinson to give the song more of a playful vibe. Instead, he opted for something deeper and more emotional. He comes across with this song as wanting to show everything that the couple has endured over the course of its marriage and the all too real feelings of uncertainty that come with life together. He didn’t mean it to come across as something depressing. That’s obvious. He wanted to give the song more realism per se. And he succeeded in that arena. For that reason, ‘Marriage’ proves to be just one more of the highest of highs on this record.
Both ‘Marriage’ and ‘I Am’ are important points in the overall structure of Tarpits and Canyonlands. That is thanks to the talent and depth presented in both songs. There is much more of that talent and depth presented throughout the course of this record. But for all of the seriousness and emotional depth presented throughout the record, there is at least one song that shows the band’s more lighthearted side on the record. The song in question is ‘Oto The Bear.’ It’s a completely nonsensical song lyrically speaking, that simply must be heard to be believed. As nonsensical as it is lyrically, it is just as catchy in terms of its musical side. Robinson is accompanied by drummer James Phillips and fellow musicians Daniel Michalak and Bryan Rahja on guitar and saxophone. The entire band together crafts a song with which one can’t help but sing and dance. It’s a nice break from the more serious material included on Tarpits and Canyonlands. That’s not to say that the other songs that make up the album aren’t enjoyable. Hardly. If anything, it shows that the band’s members knew something more lighthearted was needed, thus this piece was included. And it’s a good thing that it was. That’s because it’s one more example of how fun an album can be when a band actually tries to present both talent and originality to audiences. Simply put, it’s an album that easily serves as an example of music done right.
Tarpits and Canyonlands will be available Tuesday, June 24th via Ramseur Records. Audiences can pre-order the re-issue on vinyl now at http://bombadil.spinshop.com/details/225939. The album can be downloaded digitally at http://bombadil.spinshop.com/Music/details/214209?parent_url=http%3A%2F%2Fbombadil.spinshop.com%2Fstore%2Fbombadil.spinshop.com%2FMerchandise. The band will be in Winston-Salem, North Carolina performing live at the Twin CityRib Fest this Friday in support of Tarpits and Canyonlands. It will also be in Carrboro at the famed Cat’s Cradle on Saturday, June 21st and at the Port City RibFest in Wilmington, North Carolina on Saturday, August 16th. These are just some of the band’s upcoming tour dates in support of its upcoming re-issue. Audiences can check out Bombadil’s most current tour schedule online now at http://www.facebook.com/wearebombadil and http://www.bombadilmusic.com. To keep up with the latest sports and entertainment reviews and news, go online to http://www.facebook.com/philspicks and “Like” it. Fans can always keep up with the latest sports and entertainment reviews and news in the Phil’s Picks blog at http://philspicks.wordpress.com.