A ‘Bomb’ ready to explode

Vibrant indie pop group on tour to promote extensive vinyl re-release

The road to The Southern has been a rocky one for indie pop group Bombadil, as the band returns to the Downtown venue in mid-July for its third appearance. Bombadil will tour the country this summer to promote the re-release of their 2009 album, “Tarpits and Canyonlands.”

The remastered album comes in a set of colored double vinyl records loaded with new tracks, along with 14 works of art that were created for certain songs by album artist Robbi Behr. The promotion and excitement aren’t simply about the music or Bombadil’s success; the entire package is a committed work of art.

After the initial decline of the album’s popularity in 2009, Behr and others wrote a children’s book based on “Tarpits and Canyonlands” and designed song-specific artwork to accompany it. “We just had all this artwork,” drummer James Phillips said. The re-release will be available exclusively on vinyl. Phillips acknowledged the growing popularity of the vinyl format and said he personally listens to records “almost exclusively.” The group received ample requests for the album to be pressed; records are popular “particularly with big music fans,” Phillips said, an ever-expanding and innovating group he obviously feels a part of.

Just as “Tarpits and Canyonlands” had begun to garner positive critical reviews upon its original release in 2009, band member Daniel Michalak was struck by a painful nerve disorder which severely hindered his ability to perform. Unfortunately, the magnificent tour that had been planned for the album’s release and promotion was harshly disrupted.

Over the past two and a half years, Michalak has discovered several medicinal and therapeutic remedies, and the band has resumed touring — albeit on a small scale. Phillips doesn’t consider the short hiatus a loss, however. Even though Bombadil “lost an opportunity to grow an audience and make money touring,” he personally “gained a lot of musical insight” during the downtime, he said.

Looking at musical trends of the last decade, it’s clear that the mainstream wave of indie pop and modernized folk music was just beginning to spread at the time of the initial “Tarpits and Canyonlands” release. Artists such as Death Cab for Cutie and Matt and Kim gained recognition with similar music, while Bombadil’s release was neglected.

It is “very easy to compare your trajectory to other people but it’s kind of a waste of time,” Phillips said.

In light of a tragic story, the progressive album takes on a whole new meaning that symbolizes depth and life. Phillips said the group has diverse tastes but that they all admire indie rock group The Kinks and, of course, OG hipster-group The Beatles.

“We’re all tail Generation X-ers,” Phillips said. “We were stewed into whatever we were making at the time.”

The rhythmic style of “Tarpits and Canyonlands” takes on a distinctly Matt-and-Kim beat, while the husky, occasionally layered vocal work is reminiscent of The Smiths. There lives an optimism, even in some of the more melancholy tracks like “Reasons,” that arises from warm guitar and ukulele tunes in a similar fashion to Mumford and Sons, or Death Cab for Cutie’s hit song “I Will Follow You Into the Dark.”

The whimsical lyrics are completely original and add an irresistible quirkiness to the group’s personality; a particularly intriguing instance is the opening of “Honeymoon” which encourages the listener to “throw the body in the lake and take a chance that no one finds out.”

It’s impossible to ignore the simple yet infectious harmonies and unlikely cross-genre styles, like the vintage sounds of “Oto the Bear,” the complete Tex-Mex twang and Spanish lyrics of “Laurita,” or even the dubstep twist that appears in “Prologue.”

On the topic of the band’s current and definitely forthcoming success, Phillips modestly said, “It feels good that we’re able to create music people like.” Much to fans’ delight (and my own) Bombadil is back and more determined than ever.


Published July 1, 2014





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