It seems like it's only been a couple minutes since L.A.'s Bodies of Water released one of my favorite albums of 2007, Ears Will Pop & Eyes Will Blink. I guess it's been a year though, and apparently during that time this quartet has done some serious growing up.
The band's signature Danielson Familie-meets-Tilly And The Wall harmonies bursting with singalong potential and Biblical imagery are back on A Certain Feeling, but everything seems a bit darker this time around. One needs look no further than the album's opening track "Gold, Tan, Peach And Grey" to be assured that the band has hung onto its epic leanings and penchant for slowly building song structure into jubilant chorus (I keep thinking halfway into that track that the group is going to burst into the "These Are the Eyes" chorus of "nature forgave but I cannot forget"), but things seem to be tempered a bit here.
Nothing is quite as immediate as, for example, Ears Will Pop's "I Guess I'll Forget the Sound, I Guess, I Guess". The tracks can get a little long-winded for pop songs, often digressing into a little bit of jammy self-indulgence: 6 of the 9 songs crack 5 minutes by quite a bit. But these are songs that will grow on you, slowly seeping into your subconscious until one day you wake up singing them and feeling like life is suddenly very, very important.
I keep picturing a lot of this record as a great soundtrack to an old epic movie, maybe something like Ben Hur. Something that requires a lot of trial and tribulation on the part of the hero, but his physical powers and strength of character prove him victorious in the end. Whereas a film scored with the band's debut album would be an over-the-top celebration of the joy of living, this sequel would have more complexity and hardship to deal with, yet all the while hanging on to its optimism and zest for life.
Then after all that, the album closes on "The Mud Gapes Open", a simple, just-over-two-minutes, piano-guitar-and-voice affair that ends the record with a sense of peace and closure. The lines "The mud gapes open/ We're not that worried" are repeated four or five times in a gesture of quiet acceptance of and preparedness for whatever might be in store for our group of intrepid heroes. And if that's anything like what we've seen so far, I'm going to go ahead and say this is the kind of saga that's going to give us our money's worth for many sequels to come.