North Carolina folk quartet Bombadil has had a tough go since the release of 2009′s Tarpits and Canyonlands, mainly due to a mysterious (and debilitating) nerve injury suffered by bassist/pianist Daniel Michalak that prevented the band from touring. With Metrics of Affection, Michalak is fully on the mend, which perhaps explains why the album sounds so much more confident than the band’s last full-length, 2011′s All That The Rain Promises. Rich, warm production enhances the record’s amalgam of stately folk, ’60s pop, alt-country, orchestral indie and even classical (the lovely piano instrumental “Patience Is Expensive”). While there’s a decidedly Southern bent throughout — mainly due to the easygoing vocal style of Michalak, guitarist Bryan Rahija and pianist/ukulele player Stuart Robinson, who take turns singing lead — British artists are Metrics of Affection‘s biggest underlying influence, from XTC (“When We Are Both Cats”) and Elvis Costello (“Have Me,” the piano-driven “What Does It Mean”) to the Beatles (the White Album-like “Whaling Vessel”).
Unsurprisingly, the record does seem to reference Michalak’s injury; in particular, the spoken-word verses on “Isn’t It Funny” contain imagery such as “a wheelchair is your new bridle and horse bit.” But mostly, Metrics of Affection contains sharp vignettes about life’s small victories (feeling deep gratitude for friends and family, an implausible love story becoming reality) and tiny pangs of heartbreak (a significant other suddenly moving out, a relic from an ex accidentally resurfacing). Yet even these darker lyrical moments never feel hopeless — in fact, there’s a palpable current of optimism that buoys Bombadil’s music, making it easy to empathize with Metrics of Affection‘s joys and sorrows.