Bombadil – Metrics of Affection

written by: July 31, 2013
Album-art-for-Metrics-of-Affection-by-Bombadil Release Date: July 23, 2013


Bombadil, a folk-pop quartet from North Carolina, debuted in 2006. The band is aptly named after Tom Bomadil, an eccentric character from The Lord of the Rings whose whimsical nature hides his considerable power. Bombadil’s music, like its namesake, seems charmingly simple at first, but it has a certain elusive beauty.

Members Daniel Michalak, James Phillips, Bryan Rahija, and Stuart Robinson took a break from Bombadil after the well-received release All That The Rain Promises when Michalak developed neural tension in his hand, making it impossible for him to play.

Now, with Michalak’s pain under control, the band is gaining speed again with the release of Metrics of Affection. The album is beautifully soft and whimsical. At every turn, Bombadil shows another side of its many-faceted talents.

Almost every track has a rolling melody that easily hooks itself into the listener’s mind. The style could be considered too simplistic, yet it blends elements of folk and pop to perfection, resulting in a full, mellow and catchy sound.

Opening track “Angeline” has a lovely, dancing melody, with a poppy piano line played over a full-bodied mix of guitar and cello. The chorus, with its bright bursts of piano notes, almost sounds like a mellower version of The New Pornographers.

The group has garnered multiple comparisons to The Beatles, and a hint of Sgt. Pepper-era Beatles can be found in the next track, “Learning To Let Go.” The song starts with minimal instrumentation, but the chorus swells with guitar and trumpets. With each verse, a new element is layered on top of the music.

“Learning To Let Go” is the first in a line of ultra-catchy tracks that are sprinkled throughout the album, including “One More Ring” and “When We Are Both Cats.” These playful tunes are standouts that show off the best of Bombadil’s uplifting sound.

Metrics of Affection goes downhill slightly with the fourth song, “Isn’t It Funny.” The song is a swing and a miss. Early into the track, Michalak starts spitting a rhythmic spoken word verse that could be called rap if it weren’t accompanied by light folk music with a psychedelic ambiance. It’s certainly an interesting turn, and he does use a creative rhythm, but the transition to the lackluster chorus is awkward. It was a potentially compelling idea that fizzled out due to poor execution; it’s pulled off much better on “Escalators,” where the spoken word portion is shorter and transitions well into the rest of the song.

Bombadil’s only other fault is that even though three out of the four members take turns performing lead vocals, the differences aren’t immediately apparent; all the voices sound strikingly similar.

No matter who’s singing, the vocals are normally contained to a certain level of melodic softness, but they push the envelope on “What Does It Mean.” Robinson’s voice rings with emotion as he sings, “Baby, you were meant for me, but maybe I act differently from how you expected me to be.”

When he sheds the constraints of his pretty vocals, the result sounds refreshingly honest.

The music is significantly stripped down—the only accompaniment is piano—and the lyrics seem stripped down, too, to the point that they ring with truth. “What Does It Mean” is a beautiful standout track, and arguably the best on Metrics of Affection.

Bombadil’s music relies heavily on the stories told in the lyrics, but those stories deal with the everyday.  And while, like the music itself, they may initially seem too whimsical to be taken seriously, there’s often a message underneath. On closer inspection, the level of detachment that Bombadil maintains—not in a disinterested way, but simply by not taking itself too seriously—makes the message more relatable.

On “Thank You,” another piano-accompanied, classic pop tune, Robinson sings, “Take everyone you love and write them down/You might not want to tell all of them, ’cause that could weird some people out/but let them know you care, somehow.” “Thank You” ends Metrics of Affection on a sweet, completely unpretentious note and brings a satisfying end to the album.

Bombadil couldn’t have made a better comeback than this. Metrics of Affection is bursting with irresistible melodies, unexpected lyrical gems, and moments of profound honesty, all anchored by expert songwriting skills. It’s a quirky folk-pop beauty that should put Bombadil on everyone’s radar.

Bombadil – Metrics of Affection tracklist:

  1. “Angeline”
  2. “Learning To Let Go”
  3. “Born At 5:00”
  4. “Isn’t It Funny”
  5. “Boring Country Song”
  6. “Have Me”
  7. “Patience Is Expensive”
  8. “When We Are Both Cats”
  9. “Whaling Vessel”
  10. “What Does It Mean”
  11. “One More Ring”
  12. “Escalators”
  13. “Thank You”