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A Buzz, a Buzz

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Album Review

The Bombadil quartet may have taken their name from a character in J.R.R. Tolkien's Lord of the Rings trilogy, but there's nothing whimsical about this North Carolina band. They take their music, a wide-ranging brand of folk and rock, seriously, and they take lyric writing even more seriously. "Trip Out West" is a simple folk-like tune. Daniel Michalak plays basic piano and sings the bluesy lyric in a clear pop tenor. "Julian of Norwich" sounds like an Irish folk song played by a Bolivian folk band. (Michalak and guitarist Bryan Rahija spent a year abroad studying in Bolivia.) Zampona (Bolivian pan flute), banjo, and military snare drum make this quirky tale of a young girl buried alive sound even odder. "Smile When You Kiss" is a dizzying collection of random images that advises listeners to laugh at the madness around them. The cheerful melody and Rahija's offhand delivery produce a low-key psychedelic vibe. "Rosetta Stone" is a pop/rock tune about miscommunication, with an unusual stop-and-start meter accented by tinkling piano, dissonant guitar, and befuddled blasts of harmonica. The rhythms are also slightly disjointed on "Buzz a Buzz," with fuzzy bass, nervous hand percussion, unexpected synthesizer swells, and acoustic guitar doing a spastic waltz. The singer sounds like he's unglued, too, as he delivers a tale of slowly going nuts. "One Two Three" is a sunny love song, just voice and guitar, and an optimistic lyric that will bring a smile to your face. "Johnny" is as dark as "One Two Three" is light, a song about a cutter "writing on his arm with a knife." The music has a hint of vaudevillian excess, like an American version of mid-period Kinks, with trumpets, trombones, and cymbal smashes intensifying the song's nervous energy. "Get to Gettin On" closes the album with an impolite kiss-off of an old girlfriend, delivered with winning ironic humor. Every tune here is finely crafted, and with the band playing dozens of instruments (from the expected guitars, bass, piano, and drums to xylophone, trumpet, viola, charango, glockenspiel, recorder, and zampona), the arrangements are always inventive and often wonderfully quirky. ~ j. poet, Rovi


Formed: 2005 in Durham, NC

Genre: Rock

Years Active: '00s, '10s

In nearly all of their interviews, Durham, North Carolina indie combo Bombadil claimed that their conceptual starting point was the folk music of Bolivia, last heard on the U.S. pop charts approximately never. (Simon & Garfunkel's "El Condor Pasa [If I Could]" was based on a folk song from Peru, one country over, but that's as close as it gets.) But before one gets nightmarish visions of a South American version of Vampire Weekend's wholesale rip-off of various African musical styles, the band's...
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A Buzz, a Buzz, Bombadil
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