Posts Tagged ‘Woods’

Woods

Following 2017’s healing hand that was Love Is Love, Woods return changed, as we all are, but still mining the same mercurial magic that’s always surrounded them. While the last album dealt with finding optimism in the face of crushing disappointment (2016 in a nutshell), Strange To Explain has the benefit, or rather the burden, of having lived in the world a few more years since the bottom fell out. The band spent time growing— nurturing family and the label — and now they return with an album that’s tender, but also bruised. That yearning optimism that surrounded Love Is Love has tempered into a wistful reservation. They’re still looking to spread that love, but Woods seem to understand that it can feel hard to find a foothold on the ladder out of our low points these days. Likewise, despite the inclination there might to lash out, the record lacks the rhythmic turbulence that drove City Sun Eater In The River of Light. In its place there’s a contentedness underlying the album, the feeling that while the outer universe might spin out of control, our own nuclear worlds can still be a center of peace.

There’s some worry too, how could there not be? It melts for the most part, though, under Earl and co’s radiant glow. The band’s been refining their sound for years, and each new album adds a layer of lush comfort that solidifies them as leading their folk peers while constantly existing outside of any established models. Woods and Woodist are inseparable and the community that they’ve built around themselves shimmers through on Strange To Explain. The communal vibes of the label’s namesake festival are threaded through the album. The harmonies hug close. The instruments blend in watercolor coolness.

Don’t let the smooth taste take away the band’s bite, though. The headiness that positions them high atop the list of bands who can knock the hell out of a live set pokes out from under the lacquered veneer. Album closer Weekend Wind, pushes the album out of its sun-in serenity and into a few gnarled grooves that catch the Cosmic Americana wind. “Fell So Hard,” feels like it might lend itself to ten-minute extension once the amps are warm and humming. There are probably few who need an introduction to what Woods are about at this point, but if you need a reminder of why they’ve remained vital this past decade or so, Strange to Explain is more than up to the challenge.




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Woods – “Strange To Explain”

News that Woods has an album on the way was among the best reliefs of the year. The band’s been lying low for a little bit, letting themselves ease into their own lives and focus on the label and festival. With the reveal of the first two singles from Strange to Explain, though, they prove that their time to rest has resulted in one of Woods’ deepest, most endearing records. The band revealed the title track this week and it’s a bittersweet, yearning song that tackles strange feelings of familiarity. The band’s sound is fuller than ever, fleshed out from the early days of their psych-folk sojourns into lush orchestrations that nestle into the greenery of their Upstate environs. Woodist fam and RSTB fave Glenn Donaldson (Skygreen Leopards, The Reds, Pinks and Purples) shows up on background vocals and the whole thing sighs into the summer with an ease I hope is just over the horizon. The record is out May 22nd.



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Woods – “Where Do You Go When You Dream?”

Well I’m sure I’m not the first to tell you about this one, but its not every day that Woods give word of a new record on the way. The band’s been working on this one for a comfortable stretch, coming in as their eleventh album after 2017’s Love Is Love, with only a collaboration with Dungen sneaking in between. Their last was a response to political shift following the upsets of 2016, but now the feelings have had a bit more time to simmer. The first single “Where Do You Go When You Dream?” continues to act as balm, but this is also a decidedly mature and elegiac Woods. The song floats on a breeze of keys, drifting away from some of the sunny strums that have marked their past works. Its a melancholy track, steeped in memory, family, and friendship. Ochre-hued harmonies, full-fleshed production, and Jeremy Earl’s wistful vocals herald an album that moves the band into a new phase of their career with grace and ease. The record is out May 22nd on Woodsist.



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Kyle Forester – “Know What You’re Doing”

On his sophomore LP Kyle Forester (Crystal Stilts, Ladybug Transistor, Woods) finds himself enmeshed in worn-in comfort and cracked bittersweet soul. It’s easy to feel the warmth of the record from the glow of “Know What You’re Doing,” but there’s more at work here than just a hummable melody. The song bends in the breeze, soaks in the late autumn sun, but it also sighs with an aged soul that’s quietly restless. The song has an ache to it that’s hard to shake. For all the auburn shimmers, the song has a lonesome shadow that trails long behind it – tied up with age and doubt.

Despite the melancholy mood, Kyle found the song came naturally, slipping out of his fingers quickly. He muses, “I read this thing one time about how John Lennon’s favorite songs of his own were the ones he wrote in one sitting, like “Across the Universe”. I’m no John Lennon, but I also wrote this song really quickly and it’s probably one of the reasons I feel a lot of fondness for it. I suppose it’s about being surprised by the expectation one feels as a adult to “know what you’re doing”, like just in general. That’s never felt particularly natural to me. Michael O’Neill (Crickets, High Time, MEN) plays what is in my opinion a killer guitar solo in the middle and I’m really proud of the fact that this one has a real “outro”, I really like outros.” His new LP, Hearts In Gardens is out February 21st.


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Modern Nature

Following the unfortunate fallout from Ultimate Painting’s implosion, the band’s Jack Cooper heads inward, which is saying something. His previous outfit had a particular proclivity for introverted indie-pop that felt like it carved a distinct connection with each and every listener. While he’s shying away from the pop aspect of his writing, that core connection and folk formulation remains on Nature. The EP, built on the cavern coolness of purred vocals and bubbling cosmic grooves, gives his work a psychedelic tweak, but its the work of someone spiraling down the depths of the unconscious coil rather than exploring the etchings in the dayglo painted stars above. He’s assembled a crack team to pull off his new vision as well, pulling in members of Woods, Herbcraft, Sunwatchers, and Beak on these four engrossing tracks.

While the propulsion of the title track begs Neu-nerds to come out of the woodwork, the track is self-professed in its allusions to the more experimental bend of ’69 Fairport Convention (in particular “A Sailor’s Life”) and the trend of bucolic English psych-folk toward the creep of drone’s embrace becomes a touchstone for the album. The opening and closing tracks are different visions of the same oasis, with “Supernature” taking the listener much further into the catacombs of consciousness. Elsewhere Cooper explores the sun-licked peace of acoustic thrum on “Flats,” and throws in a cover of the perennially inspiring “Blackwaterside” folk-tale, skipping just Ren Faire aesthetics that lesser artist can cave to and finding the meditative beauty that Jansch and Denny brought to the traditional piece.

Cooper seems to admit that this EP came out of something beyond him, and whether it becomes the beginning of something longer term or just a watershed to tide him through the transition remains to be seen. I’m hoping that he continues down this road, though. The experimental folk badge looks good on him and should the band begin rotating in talent like those assembled so far, it could be a great new chapter in Cooper’s pop cannon.

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Modern Nature – “Supernature”

As I may have mentioned before, I was saddened when Ultimate Painting not only folded last year, but also pulled their final album from release. It was a masterful pop album that deserved light, even if its creators were sent splitting in two different, irreconcilable directions. All is not lost, however. While UP has been consigned to the land of wind and ghosts, the two creative forces behind the band are, in fact, inexhaustible hubs of musical fare. It would seem that Jack Cooper is already onto his newest venture, releasing three new tracks as Modern Nature.

With a mutable lineup, that here includes keyboardist Will Young, drummer Aaron Neveu (Woods), cellist Ruper Gillett, and saxophonist Jeff Tobias (Sunwatchers), Cooper sets out to conquer a considerably more expansive end of the musical spectrum than he has dabbed in in the past. With a heavy investment in modal psych, the new EP embraces Cooper’s previous touches on psychedelic pop but drops through about six layers of mind fuzz further into the frosted ether for a sound that’s build on circular drones, sweat lodge sax hallucinations and a quasar-nudging foray into psychedelic chakra expansion. Its a surprising heel turn, but a welcome one nonetheless . Check the first track, which tops out around twelve minutes of cosmic float. The EP is out on Bella Union, March 22nd.

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Dungen & Woods

In addition to curating a psychedelic sojourn in Texas each year, Mexican Summer’s Marfa Myths festival produces a collaborative piece that serves as universal souvenir, even for those not able to make it down to the sunbaked namesake in any given year. In the past this has offered up collab slabs from Conan Mockasin/Dev Hines and Ariel Pink/Weyes Blood respectively, both fair pieces in their own right. On the eve of the upcoming festival the label releases the fruits of last year’s team up and this one hits me harder than either of the previous two, combining the talents of Woods (Jeremy Earl and Jarvis Taveniere) and Dungen (Gustav Ejstes and Reine Fisk), two longtime favorites here.

On paper that seems like it has to work, and for the most part this is an overtly successful blending of the two bands’ styles. It could be said that Woods have been moving towards more complex arrangements with each release, and to that end the addition of Dungen’s lush songwriting style both fits and isn’t too far a jump. When the two bands really dig into each other’s styles, though, the record soars. The opener serves essentially as an instrumental Dungen track, occupying the same space that the band has built out in their catalog over the years for the kind of soaring flute and kush psychedelics that beg the listener to lean back into their fawning embrace. Likewise, the second track “Turn Around” feels like a Woods song with a bit more padding – a good Woods song mind you, but not one that feels like it might be out of place on their last couple of albums. Only the lingering flute lends a wink of Gustav Ejstes’s fingerprints on the song.

But as they eke into the second instrumental of the set, the aptly titled “Marfa Sunset,” the two bands begin to smelt their strengths into a bubbling psychedelia that’s twisting with Woods’ effects bent past and Dungen’s smooth ‘70s glow. Once they begin to melt Jeremy Earl’s falsetto into a cloud of echo and the two singers go for harmonies, then the record blossoms into the potential offered up by the premise. The culmination of the album becomes an oasis from the Texan heat, glittering with a dew-soaked psychedelia that’s nourishing to the soul. The high point “Jag Ville Va Kvar” offers doubled returns on any listener’s investment, elevating this far beyond party favor and into favored canon for both artists. The past installments have been worth a pop in, but this collaboration gives good argument to the festival as incubator for one-off dream teams.




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A. Savage

Here’s the thing, as a band Parquet Courts lost me a while back. I championed Light Up Gold because it captured a certain moment in the slide of Brooklyn from youthful intrusion to full on infestation of wealth. It was a feeling in time mimeographed and cut to groove, but as the band continued they became more wrapped up in their own lineage and legacy than seemed necessary. The deadpan dynamics and new wave plundering fell too antiseptic on my shores. That’s not to discount Andrew Savage as a songwriter, he’s proven he’s got an angle that sells and a poet’s heart that lends itself well to the Jonathan Richman patter that he’s able to slip into seamlessly.

So it winds up that he’s gone back home to his roots in Texas and a brand of lonesome country pining for his latest, and here he finds his second wind. The album boasts no shortage of talent, swapping out his usual backing band for a bevy of friends and compatriots from Woods, Ultimate Painting, PC Worship, EZTV, and Psychic TV. The assembled masses take his drip dry delivery on a tour of the Southwest, grasping hands with slide guitar and an amiable amble without ever affecting any hackneyed country croon. Instead he staples his best Calvin Johnson talking blues to the tumbleweeds of alt-country and, at times, a starker strain that boils the noise out of his boots and lets an acerbic twinge show through the relaxed demeanor of Thawing Dawn.

This is actually where the album shines brightest, when the noise overwhelms the swagger (see: “What Do I Do”). The moment that the veneer is broken and the brain starts to boil compliments the easy going country ambivalence. There are some choice ballads here that showcase Savage’s handle on being the lonesome foal among a herd that might not love him back, but when he lets fly a brand of noise-country I’m fully invested in what he’s selling. There are those that will brand this a solo outing unmoored from his Parquet work, adrift and looking for purchase, but for me that’s where Savage excels. By balancing ennui painted in sunset hues and itching uncertainty, he’s found an explanation of what drifting into your thirties in the city feels like.




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Woods

Like many, Woods turned to art and music to process their feelings following the fallout of 2016. Love is Love was recorded in the two months following last year’s election. It feels, and for all intents and purposes, acts as a companion piece to their 2016 album City Sun Eater In The River of Light. Love is Love employs some of the same notes of brass and fuller orchestration, the band itself swollen to six members for the recording. The contrast comes in the tone of the recordings. Oddly, the album that preceded the regime change was darker and a bit more foreboding, whereas this record seems to turn to hope rather than the anger that could, and has often been the reaction.

The majority of the songs on the album speak to an optimism that doesn’t feel naive or tone deaf, rather it’s a message of hope through the dark. They’re clearly acknowledging that a lot of people feel fear and anger and confusion and ultimately lost, but that out of those feelings springs community. The core of Love is Love is a feeling that we can all lean on one another and try to exit the other side of the next four years as better listeners, better friends, better lovers, better parents, better children.

Obviously that message only speaks to how you conduct yourself. There’s a lot that’s out of our hands and that anxiety hangs over the instrumental track “Spring Is In The Air,” an almost ten-minute bout of paranoia and psychedelic anxiety. Woods prove that even their own philosophy of love as the weapon can’t curtail all the external forces. It’s unclear how the concept of America will change – to us, to others, to those that see themselves as winning back or losing their own internal convictions of what country and community mean. As the weeks and months following our own blunder have proven, it’s unclear whether others will follow the same roads or choose the steady hand over reactionary change. For all those questions, Woods don’t have answers, but they have hope and that’s not a terrible start. Someone said that poor administrations mean the art gets better. I don’t for a second take that as consolation, and besides, the art was always good, it’s just a bit more resonant now and maybe we’re paying a bit more attention.




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Woods – “Politics of Free”

Woods last album was an absolute high point in their career, a fully realized vision of their cleaned up sound spiked with new obsessions and directions among the sunshine psych. “Politics of Free” leans towards the band’s signature buttery tones and swaying summer vibes, and that’s pretty much what they sum up with their video for the track. Its the band on the road, enjoying the views and finding solace in the small moments. Its pretty much the distillation of what I think of when I think of Woods. If there’s any reason that you haven’t picked this one up already, maybe this is the shove you need in the right direction.

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