Highland Park's Bodies of Water make a sudden return to the surface with a fuller sound
Bodies of Water aren't the most prolific lot. Yet the act, essentially a revolving contingent of players built around the husband/wife tandem of David and Meredith Metcalf, has made the most of its limited output. The pair just has a tendency to take the phrase "under the radar" as an operating directive.
To wit, their third album, "Twist Again," was self-released this June. It's a work that sees Bodies of Water fully exploring an orchestral pop lushness, and it's also one that just sort of appeared. No album release show, no tour, no record store appearance -- nothing.
"I think we’ll get around to playing in the summer, but we’re making ourselves scarce right now," David said. "There’s nothing in the works. And yes, it's a curious business strategy. I realize that."
Though it's been three years since the band's "A Certain Feeling," the Metcalfs haven't exactly been absent from the local music landscape. In 2009 the couple fronted Music Go Music, whose '70s-inspired songs were packed with spooky synths, brash guitars and colossal, ABBA-inspired choruses. Although David and Meredith didn't make it easy for fans to make the Bodies of Water connection, issuing only vague press releases with "Star Trek"-like aliases (TORG, Gala Bell).
"We kind of kept it on the down-low because, initially, we thought it would be more fun to just sort of send it out there without any context," David said. "We didn’t want another frame of reference to look at it."
Perhaps that's for the best. Those familiar with "A Certain Feeling" will recall that the album was laced with a haunted house organ and church-like choirs. The often gothic arrangements went after a mood rather than a hook, and Bodies of Water seemed to be building toward an operatic rock 'n' roll sound.
"When we recorded 'A Certain Feeling' we had all been listening to heavier music, or at least our version of it," David said. "We were kind of figuring out the arrangements, and most of the songs were written on piano and an acoustic upright bass. That has a different vibe from a guitar and an electric bass, so the feeling of that record evolved from there, and it asked for different songs."
With "Twist Again," however, the band has crafted a richer, fuller-sounding effort. Album opener "One Hand Loves the Other" acts as a sort of torch-passer, framing Meredith's theatrical voice with an organ, but the sound is bright, accentuated with xylophone-like chimes. Elsewhere, "Triplets" bounces with a piano at full gallop, "Light Out Forever" flirts with becoming a mariachi ballad and "New Age Nightmare," with its hymn-like backing vocals and a barren, Southwestern strut, sees Bodies of Water acting like the Bad Seeds.
"This album does sound really different, but that’s the way it ought to be," David said. "It’s been a few years since we recorded the last record, and we’re pretty different people now. I’m sure the next record won’t sound like this one, but hopefully you can tell that it’s us."
The album was recorded in the Metcalfs' Highland Park home, and features more than a dozen collaborators. At times on "Twist Again," Bodies of Water turns into a mini-orchestra. "Rise Up, Careful" starts like a cabaret vamp and ends with a shockingly smooth saxaphone. "Like A Stranger," however, gradually builds on a handclap beat to an upbeat finale with a trumped lifted from a '70s soul song.
"Like A Stranger" benefited from the casual, yearlong recording process, as it originally existed in a completely different form. "We were playing it like an electronic song," David said. "The drums were doing a disco beat. It was a peculiar little trip to get to where it was. We liked the original, but it just sounded a little weird and we thought we had to change it around so it wasn’t a synthesizer jam."
With the album recorded throughout 2010 with an extended cast of musicians, getting a touring band ready has had to wait. Then there's also the fact that David and Meredith are recent parents.
"The group that recorded the record has sort of dissipated, as people are going to grad school and have other jobs, so we’re bringing in another group of people and in the throes of teaching them how to play these songs," David said. "It just worked out that way. We wanted to put the record out sooner rather than later, even if it meant we couldn’t do traditional record release shows and tour."
Regardless of how far the record travels or how much it sells, "Twist Again" is likely one of the rare albums that can claim being funded in part by a pizza commercial.
"A location scout randomly knocked on our front door and asked if he could take some pictures of our house because they were looking for places in the neighborhood in which to shoot a Domino’s pizza commercial," David said. "I let him in and they ended up using our house for this commercial. I haven’t seen it. Apparently it’s only on Univision or Telemundo, but it paid us enough to pay for all the manufacturing of the record."
-- Todd Martens
Photo courtesy of David and Meredith Metcalf