Portland’s Water & Bodies would like to think that it spices up indie rock. It doesn’t. Supposedly, electronics and jazz are the special ingredients, but on the group’s new EP, the former falls flat and the latter is nonexistent. Their already subpar sound is hampered by their attempts at eclecticism. This is the difference between being a pioneer and being lost.
The band dives in with “Something I Can Grasp”, a song that moves to the beat of a persistent snare drum. The chorus downshifts and coasts through some decent harmonies, but the pleasure is fleeting. A lot of middling indie bands try to be versatile within songs, playing with dynamics, tempos, and tensions without ever mastering any particular one. And so it goes with Water & Bodies. “Animals” begins with a non sequitur: an electronic beat, synthy bass, and vaguely haunting falsetto followed by the sound of a white bread college band over-eager to sound progressive. If you heard this in a club, you’d leave.
The best of these six songs is “Celebration Song” and “Written and Read”. The first is basic indie rock with a steady, head bobbing beat. The vocal is more than a little melodramatic but is nevertheless the best performance on the EP. Synths set a soft backdrop for “Written and Read”. Despite some questionable instrumentation choices, the beat—led by the cymbal—allows the song to develop and solidify the arrangement.
Water & Bodies offers nothing in particular. The guitars shuffle through anonymous alt rock, the rhythm section works like wallpaper, and the vocalist, while promising, should learn when to hold back. And better lyrics wouldn’t hurt, either. The vocal on “Naked in the Rain” emotes, “Take some common sense and some loose change, trade it for a wish and some cheap champagne / If only everything could be like this, I think we all would have it made”. The song’s message skips through an indecipherable sequence of feelings of wandering and remembering and regretting and feeling sad, and then lonely but needing to get away from something. Try getting away from music for a while.