What a difference a few days make. When Greg first presented reviewing Bobby and sent me their bio from Partisan Records, I felt trepidation. I thought Bobby was just another batch of weird musicians cropping up, destined for ironic enjoyment; a short shelf life among music listeners; and a cult following of fans who appreciate their oddness. It colored my first few listening of their self-titled release. I rolled my eyes at song titles like “Sore Spores,” “Tomb Bloom,” and “Shimmychick.” The 62 minute listening session felt like it took 186 minutes to power through.
Then came the much-anticipated audio epiphany: this strangeness miscast Bobby. They were not the next iteration of Frank Zappa, Captain Beefheart or Primus. They were not trying to corner the bizarre market. Their songs do have atypical moments and aberrant sounds, but their indie folk rock is pure. There are moments I feel I am listening to a band heavily inspired by Modest Mouse, but then I am met with songs of sweeping brilliance.
It is as if they captured the scope of the universe in a five minute track. I listen to “Tomb Bloom,” and “Groggy,” and become that infinitesimal speck in the Milky Way. “Nam Champ” and “Dustbeam” bring the listener back to Earth and can lull them into a relaxed, dream-state or offer a soundtrack to introspection. Each song has tiny hooks that embed the music in my head and offer multiple plays in the same day. This is a very divergent path than the one I was on when I read their bio.
This goes back to an argument I made last week that context is critical. There is something about events in our lives that color our listening experience. I love songs that others find lame because they were great coping mechanisms for breakups. Any album I purchased between October and December in 2008 is sullied by memories of an incredibly stressful time at a job I could not stand at the time. Any time I listen to anything from 2005, I tumble down the rabbit hole of a bad, year long relationship.
Fortunately I was able to emerge from this latest burrow with more clarity of Bobby’s sound and musical ability. It took several go-rounds to shake my experience with the strange, but I am finally starting to overlook terms like “sick milk.” Their music could be described as ephemeral or dream-like, but I like to think it is the sound of waking up to a bigger understanding and an expanding of the consciousness. It is a great album to put on in the background when reading or wanting to sit and reflect.
Or maybe what we experience when listening to Bobby is unique to each of us and your own tumble through the rabbit hole will yield different results. Half the fun is not knowing where you’ll end up.
Bobby’s debut comes out June 21st – you can preorder here from Partisan Records.