One of the first things that comes to mind in the opening, odd-shaped song, “Between the Heart and the Mind” is Ponytail. Body Breaks and Ponytail don’t sound much alike beyond the strange tunings, but the exuberant, infectious energy that permeates every song on Bad Trouble fills a void that Ponytail left. This distant-duo of Matt LeGroulx and Julie Reich creates a sonic world that zigzags through dense city streets, weaving into traffic head-on, winning every game of chicken along the way.
Throughout Bad Trouble, nothing seems in tune, but that’s simply because most people’s ears are used to the tunings LeGroux is using. “Initially, I was trying to tune my guitar to Balinese gamelan scales,” explains LeGroulx. “I finally settled on quarter-tone – a subset of microtonal music – because it seemed to me that no matter how much I heard, it never sounded in tune.” I love that it’s on purpose and because of it, by the end of Bad Trouble’s short runtime, it all seems natural.
Reich, for her part, weaves an unguarded narrative, tackling subjects as heavy as environmental devastation and aging as a woman and an artist. The dichotomy of these themes with LeGroux’s often spastic, high-spirited compositions pushes Bad Trouble into rarified air. “Work for the Man” crunches along, careening through obstacle after obstacle while Reich wails, “Where I go, I can’t get away.” Reich continually shows off her range, hitting hypnotic, breathy highs on the cogent “Eyes to Brightness” while she sounds emotionally wrecked, still crooning triumphantly on stunning opener “Between the Heart and the Mind.” LeGroulx, meanwhile, rolls off-kilter throughout, keeping each piece tight and concise and knowing exactly when to pull the ripcord.
Bad Trouble comes off as this perfect, oddball nugget. Body Breaks’ songs are catchy for days, but unexpected and with so many interesting layers beyond their pop accessibility. It’s the thing I loved about Ponytail (or even The Unicorns) where the songs can work simultaneously as anthemic party jams while also getting into headier zones that continue to show themselves through close listening. Body Breaks is an exciting new collaboration and Bad Trouble is exactly what I want for summer 2021.
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