Bodywash - I Held the Shape While I Could (Album Review)

Montréalers Chris Steward and Rosie Long Decter make up Bodywash, a musical duo who flirt with the ethereal on their second album, I Held the Shape While I Could, a polished collection of 12 atmosphere-heavy shoegaze pop tunes blasted into overdrive.

'Ethereal' is a term thrown about too often in descriptions of blissed-out, hazy, and melodic music these days. One definition of ethereal is "extremely delicate and light in a way that seems too perfect for this world." As previously stated, Bodywash only flirts with delicacy, using spiderweb-thin sonic structures to weave pretty webs of sound around otherwise cold-shower-fresh songs.

There are many key points on this album that make it worth coming back to. The ambient vocalises and laid-back drum machine groove of the intro "In As Far", the lead single "Massif Central", which expresses bittersweet pain with the same endearing energy of a teenage poet, and "Sterilizer", which takes the phrasing melodic rock and runs with it, and the obscure textures, haunting harmonies, and driving guitars of "Patina" take things interstellar. However, there are some moments that don't quite achieve the balance of these key points; "Perfect Blue" is somehow too literal and soundtracky, and the anxiety-inducing "Kind of Light" feels muddled and busy beyond necessity.

But sometimes life is just muddled. "Massif Central" recounts Steward's troubled experience of bureaucracy when a simple typo in a government letter caused him to lose his legal work status in Canada. However, knowing this backstory is not necessary to see that the duo uses music as a salve for life's hardships; they are perenially dreamy and starry-eyed in nature.

When Bodywash goes down more experimental corridors, like on the creepy but stunning "Bas Relief" or the new age spoken word and colorful synths of "One Day Clear", they could fit in with the art-world elite. Their flights of fancy evade self-indulgence by virtue of being beautiful.

I Held the Shape While I Could by Bodywash is a variegated album of explorative songwriting and production that investigates the precarious nature of human existence. It makes quite an indelible mark, mostly as the unassuming nature of the Enyaesque landscapes turn to jarring distortions and energetic breakbeat. These elements are loosely stitched together, and such freeform expression delivers a feeling of dreamlike ambiguity, like trying to hold onto disappearing shapes, legal status, or ideas.