Bombadil is a band that deserves to be way bigger than it is, but unfortunately a few speedbumps along the road to success had them inactive for a short while. The North Carolina four-piece is one of those precious gems I discovered through Daytrotter and was very proud to have the opportunity to introduce my friends to.
Thankfully, the time they spent apart since 2009 did nothing to stifle their productivity and they were able to come back together late last year in an Oregon barn to record their third studio album, “All That the Rain Promises.” In fact, it may very well be their most accessible album to date.
It’s a toned down, more conventional version of their lovable selves. Normally those words may imply that the honeymoon is over, but in this case, it means they’re ready to take it to the next level. The sheer fact that they can change their tempo and toss aside an arsenal of instruments, yet be just as exciting as ever, is exact proof that Bombadil is the real deal.
We’ve heard hints of this new Bombadil in their past work, but they really commit to it on the new album. Reminiscent of the band’s 2007 debut, “A Buzz, a Buzz,” “All That the Rain Promises” opens with a tune coupling just piano and vocals, but instead of following that with a rowdy ruckus akin to “Julian of Norwich,” it gives us the deliberate and hushed musicality of “The Pony Express.”
Bombadil’s 2009 album, “Tarpits and Canyonlands,” demonstrated an early step in their evolution with its somewhat more Americana visage, blending the band’s world sound with country-folk guitars. Now, in a time when the indie music community is worshiping at the altars of Mumford & Sons and The Head and the Heart, “All That the Rain Promises” should become a strong contender. Bombadil embodies a style people are especially prone to enjoying these days, but remains charmingly unique.
The folky melodies of “Flour Water Sugar” and “Leather Belt” exhibit a refreshing simplicity combined with the band’s expectedly solemn poetics. It’s apt to acknowledge that Bombadil’s lyrics often come across esoteric, which may explain my fondness for “A Question, ” a song free of ambiguity. Vocalist Stuart Robinson poses the question, “Do you like (do you like like, do you like like) me too?” but quickly backpedals at the thought of creating an awkward situation where his feelings are not reciprocated. It’s insightful, as the reason many people are afraid to express their feelings isn’t simply fear of rejection itself but fear of how the revelation will affect the current relationship’s dynamic, positive or otherwise.
Musically, the album’s best songs are the bounding “Laundromat,” march-tempo “One Whole Year,” and “Avery,” the instrumental interlude at the center. But I find myself partial to “Short Side of the Wall,” the album’s longest at five minutes and 37 seconds. It’s the softness — drums, guitar and piano all making a gentle contribution — that is music to my ears this time around.