The self-titled debut by New York art-folk outfit Bobby is a prime example of just how mismatched an album’s graphic design can end up in relation to its actual sound. The clip art flowers and crude MacPaint images of young boys in their underpants (one or both of them most likely the mythical “Bobby” to which their name alludes) almost seems to suggest some kind of 8-bit pranksterism a la Dan Deacon, or some other kind of electronic iconoclast. As it turns out, however, Bobby is much more elegant, more meditative and gorgeous than their dot-matrix soft-porn cover image lets on. There are no Gameboy beats, nor chipmunk vocals, nor hallucinogenic indie psych seizure bait.
Putting aside the strange visual disconnect, Bobby’s debut album is, in fact, a brilliantly executed and beautifully written album of gentle yet rhythmic folk-pop, slightly askew and with just the right amount of arty exploration. This is highly accessible music, catchy even, but performed with a measured and delicate precision. Even the slightest touches of wobbly effects, as on “Tomb Bloom,” or quirky synth, as on “Sore Spores,” are seamlessly integrated into the fabric of the songs, sharply standing out only momentarily before assimilating into the intricate machinery.
And what delicate machinery it is; there’s a haunting, almost eerie quality to the opening chords of “We Saw,” which lay a stunning groundwork for the vocal harmonization between Tom Greenberg and Molly Searle, taking the song into an even more strikingly chilling plateau. The band leaps to a gallop on “Tomb Bloom,” which is alternately hypnotic and breathtaking. And “Loading Phase” lulls and pulses into ambient bliss, softly pulling the listener into one of the album’s most hushed and gorgeous highlights.
No, Bobby’s sound may not match their curiously chosen artwork, at least on a surface level. And if there’s a connection between their digital Fruit-of-the-Loom model and the serene indie folk they create, I certainly haven’t found it. Nevertheless, Bobby’s debut is a most welcome surprise, the kind of album that soothes and seduces the listener with quietly powerful triumphs.
Stream: Bobby – “Tomb Bloom”
Jeff Terich is the founder and editor of Treble. He's been writing about music for 20 years and has been published at American Songwriter, Bandcamp Daily, Reverb, Spin, Stereogum, uDiscoverMusic, VinylMePlease and some others that he's forgetting right now. He's still not tired of it.