Metrics of Affection, the upbeat, offbeat third full-length from Durham, North Carolina’s Bombadil, is a compendium of oddity and odyssey. On the gently danceable opening track, the band gives backseat counsel to Angeline, a frightened woman seeking escape in a city she doesn’t know: “Your heart goes fast but your car goes slow, and I hope the people have pity.” An average man’s achingly generic life span, from daily grind to predictable death, is the subject of “Born at Five.” Abundant in sincerity, wit and cheerful vim, these 13 songs use images such as escalators and whaling vessels to explore how we spend our lives, and with whom. There is more than one ode to girlfriends—mostly the kind who are gone.
Named for the lighthearted Tolkien troubadour, Bombadil has seen some odyssey itself, with founding member Daniel Michalak’s painful long-term nerve injury restricting the use of his hands, and putting the band’s future in question after the last album. But Michalak recovered, and in 2012 they toured. Afterward, the four bandmates recorded and produced Metrics at home, writing all the songs together and taking turns singing (with some guest trumpet from Michael Stipe). In true collaboration, they create a playful folk-pop of intricate wordplay and grand, resonant male harmonies that evoke Neutral Milk Hotel and the Proclaimers. It’s a wild but deft union of influences: bluegrass, rock, hip-hop, hymns. Girlfriends come and go; this marriage works.—Kate Crane