Decorous the full-length debut of Oklahoma City four-piece Bowlsey is a lot of things, and thats part of the problem.
Admirably boundless, the album (and Bowlsey as a band) operates under a generously sized umbrella of any and all things chill or soulful. To be able to come across as anything resembling a true original in a modern state that is built more on revivals than innovation is more than a little commendable; Bowlseys closest point of reference is the genre-bending Gorillaz, and even thats a sizable stretch.
And there are dazzling moments, gorgeous tones and stimulating juxtapositions littered throughout Decorous, but the signature style Bowlsey has fashioned for itself could use a little tailoring, too.
Because really, there are two bands operating within one here. Bowlsey No. 1 brews soft, refreshing moments that come and go like sun-showers. Bowlsey No. 2 pushes that folk-infused hip-hop (or soul-skewed acoustic pop, however you want to have it) into daring places with just enough fire on its lips. The marriage of those is where the real magic happens (Extracurricular, opener Queen of the Ghetto), but its a union rarely heard or felt. Instead, Decorous is a house divided.
Thats never more evident than it is in Post-Slumberless and the songs that follow. The former is a late-night Adult Swim hip-hop vignette (and a damn good one) that spotlights Taylor Merciers gruff but sharp flow over a sparse, glitchy construct of icy jabs and synthetic whale-song echoes.
Then the band skips a gear, sputtering into the yes, very pretty, but out-of-the-blue folk ballad 11:11 and its saucier, spiritual cousins Struggle and Junk. This is precisely where Bowlseys unique approach reads more confusing than neoteric. Post-Slumberless becomes a weird head fake, whetting your appetite for something thats not to come again the aural equivalent of a whiff of sizzling fajitas zapping the flavor from the dish sitting on the plate in front of you.
Where the smoothness of that breezy trio serves as an attribute, it borders on mild by the same token. Bowlsey does pleasant too well at times, eager to please the crowd (Draggin, Resin), but what works in the lounge doesnt always work on the record.
No doubt lots of things still do. Theres a formidable chemistry to Clarissa Castillos sweet, sultry vocals paired with Merciers raspy rhymes, and thats especially potent when they are layered on top of each other, as they are in Temperance. The organ sprinkled through the record brings things to a fun place, as well, especially in the lightly twisted Beelzebub and seductive Selfish. But as a whole, it feels a little fleeting.
In a lot of ways, Decorous is a broad (and inebriated) philosophical discussion over the glow of a bonfire; it feels good and warm but hell if its not all a little fuzzy the morning after.