Seems like just a few weeks ago that Woods released With Light and With Love…wait, it was just a few weeks ago. But, the band is already back with two new songs that they’ll be releasing through Captured Tracks. I think this song fits perfectly in with the musical themes from that album, so we can look at these songs as additional brushstrokes to that stellar album. While the track is dominated pretty simply by a good melody, there’s still that folky stomp that band so often employs coming in near the end of the track. You can grabs it on July 8th from the label.
Here’s the deal: Woods began as a band back in 2005, and ever since they’ve been cranking out albums left and right. With Light & With Love makes for their sixth full-length album of folksy indie rock that also kicks you in the face with rock and roll on occasion. There are a lot of things to appreciate about this group of four gentlemen from Brooklyn on this album which you’ll find soon after you press play.
Immediately, on the first track “Shepherd,” you think you know exactly what Woods‘ deal is all about. You have this ragtimey piano riff underneath it all, acoustic guitar strumming away, and what sounds like bluesy slide guitar intermittently. What is constant are Jeremy Earl’s soft and oddly half-falsetto vocals, that bathes everything in a bright light. Though the song talks of a “shepherd for your sorrows,” the sonic quality would have you believe otherwise; it’s as sunny as they come. The track briefly introduces you to their sound, making you feel at home with the group, even if you haven’t necessarily had vast knowledge of their previous catalogue.
“Moving to the Left,” offers a step back to their folksy roots—its gentle rhythm and slightly jangly percussion are smooth and comforting, while the lyrics on this song ask questions of existential proportion. Though the folk element is definitely here, Woods also brings in an undercurrent of electric guitar at the end of the song. They are always walking the fine line between genres, switching between folk and rock and pop and even blues at the trick of a hat while Earl’s vocals hypnotize and hold you steady. “Full Moon,” is another great example of this effect—the electric guitar riffs at the beginning seem to be coming to you from the Seventies, while there are also some synth sounds that bring you to 2014 again, with each other instrument seeming to evoke some other genre in between. You can pick out the influence and shaping elements from over the years here, which is somewhat of their deal: scattered throwbacks with modern elements to put a new spin on things.
Bottom line is, With Light & With Love is an accessible record of easy listening that packs a bit more of a punch with every listen. The lyrics are reaching, pulling at your conscious while the instrumentation lets your body sway easily. It is one of those deceptively friendly sounding albums that will have you constantly thinking and questioning while you jam, and I invite you to do just that.
Ah. Finally a new Woods record is on its way. There’s just something about the band and the various projects of the members that simply makes you feel welcome in the musical world they’ve created. Sometimes it’s their classic rock harmonies that win you over, while other times it’s their desire to jam things out in a mellow fashion that grabs you. Here, you get both of those, which reminds me of the fact that I think the band is one of the most endearing bands around (despite some of the drug association). Their new record is titled With Light and With Love; it’ll be released by Woodsist on April 15th. They’ve also been included in the most excellent Austin Psych Fest schedule this year.
Usually when everyone lauds a new tune, it’s either because it’s incredible or because there’s tons of unnecessary hype. In the case of this new piece from Kevin Morby, who spends a lot of time in Woods and The Babies, it’s mostly the former. The tune is sprawled carefully across Morby’s vocals, moving quiet slowly, with ornate little touches of detail added in all the right places. I’m reminded a bit of The Clientele, especially when you get to the 2.5 minute mark…that’s not a bad thing in my mind. You can grab his new record, Harlem River, on November 26th via Woodsist.
Here it is. I know you’ll hate it; I know you’ll disagree, but that’s not the point in making an arbitrary list. We here at ATH worked really hard to fit in the tastes of the four of us, and when we decided upon our Top 50, it really boied down to simple math. What albums did we love when they came out? Do we still enjoy spinning those records months later? If they’re in the Top 50, then the asnwer is probably yes. I mean, our Top 2 records came out in January, and still play a vital part in my weekly listening. There’s no disclaimer here. We are who we are, we like what we like, and we hope that’s okay with you. If not, drop us a line and let us know where we went wrong.
The project between Woods‘ Kevin Morby and Vivian Girls‘ Cassie Ramone isn’t exactly a new project, but their newest effort for Woodsist seems like the side-project finally got some much deserved focus from the two core songwriters. Our House On The Hill is the perfect execution of sunny pop with a ramshackle approach, giving listeners exactly what we’ve been looking for since we first got wind of the band.
“Alligator” takes aim at my pop-centric heart almost immediately. A ringing guitar accompanied by Morby’s sunny vocal approach definitely pleases, and when Cassie Ramone comes in for accompaniment midway through the track, I couldn’t have been happier. It’s a simple tune, with fairly common writing, but it’s just the beginning of the infectious hooks coming from The Babies. Immediately following you’re greeted by slow-walking, where Morby and Ramone take dead aim at bright pop by trading vocal duties back and forth. This is the track I longed for the group to create!
A few tracks ahead and you enter the realm of perfection with “Get Lost,” one of the standout tracks on Our House On The Hill. This is definitely Morby’s track, and it’s his vocal performance that steals the show, though the low-key approach of the various verses just builds the tension for the group to blast off into a bliss filled meandering guitar affair to close out the song. Just because there’s a hit like this laying in the middle of the record, it doesn’t mean there’s not enough interesting tracks to fill out the album exceptionally.
You can take “Mean,” which is mostly a one-man Morby affair, with the singer coming off with hints of Bob Dylan, both in the writing of the track and the vocal delivery. Ramone’s quieted backing vocals only strengthen the track even more. There’s also “Baby,” which belongs to Ramone, and definitely wears the mark of her other project, Vivian Girls, though there’s also similarities to Best Coast lurking in its structure and vocal delivery. These are just a few of the various examples that mark this effort by The Babies, leaving you with an effort that doesn’t really repeat itself, though paces back and forth in similar territory.
Our House On The Hill is all over place, and in saying this, I’m meaning it as a compliment. In combining the great songwriting attributes of Morby and Ramone, the record never really gets stale, and if anything, it only improves reveals more gems from listen to listen. Depending upon your mood, you might light the sunny pop elements, but others might find themselves leaning towards the more stripped down tracks like “That Boy.” Thats precisely why I think The Babies are so successful on this round, doing what they do best on their own terms, and excelling in every way.
Having fallen in love with Bend Beyond, the recent release from Woods, I couldn’t wait for the show at Red 7. It topped off what was already an excellent night of music for us at ATH, and for those of you in Austin.
Read on for the usual words and photos.
Have we got a deal for you !? The great people of Transmission are allowing us to help you get out and see one of the most anticipated shows of the season, Woods over at Red 7. Their recent release, Bend Beyond, is absolutely magnificent, and I have a feeling it will make a lot of year end lists. But, if that’s not enough to convince you, you can also see Widowspeak, a Captured Tracks act that made my list of favorites at SXSW this past year. Oh, and local group Hidden Ritual is setting things off right as the opening slot! All you need to do is leave a comment with your most anticipated Fun Fun Fun Fest band, and we’ll pick our favorite and let you have 2 free tickets to Wednesday night’s show. Doors are at 9 PM, and for those just wanting to buy tickets they’re $14 at the door. Contest ends Wednesday at 8 AM.[audio:http://austintownhall.com/wp-content/uploads/2010/06/woodsimnotgone.mp3]
Download: Woods – I’m Not Gone [MP3]
Honestly, I’ve never been one-hundred percent behind Woods. Some of their tunes have been really good, and others I could have done without, but when you’re working as hard as this band, sometimes you get lost in the fold. But, Bend Beyond is a pretty exceptional record, and it’s definitely gotten a hold of me.
You couldn’t have asked for a better opening track than “Bend Beyond,” which clearly owes a bit to California pop of yesteryear. The song opens slowly, but when the chorus begins to take off in this perfect melody, it won me over completely. Sure, there’s a bit much of the guitar noodling for my typical liking, but with the striking harmony as the central player, I can forgive that. And they followed it up with “Cali in a Cup,” a song that immediately had me awkwardly stomping about my stereo room with a huge grin upon my face. One listen here and you’ll remember why those of us who are pop lovers really love music. At this point, Bend Beyond is two for two.
I promise you, Woods aren’t letting up, but they do offer more than just this folk-laden sunny pop. You don’t have to go too far to find “It Ain’t Easy;” it’s a number that mostly revolves around gentle guitar strumming and vocals. You’ll hear some faint slide guitar shimmering in the background, providing the song with more depth, but it’s not like that’s needed, as the track’s pretty special standing on its own. Or they can go in a completely different direction, just as they do on “Find Them Empty.” It opens with this shattering psychedelic guitar noise, which never fully fades away, circling in and out about the central idea of the track. Definitely a pop tune, similar to the earlier tracks mentioned, but with a bit of ballsy guitar work making it something else entirely.
I’m not really sure what is about this release that has made me completely warm to the band, but right now I’m leaning towards the undeniable consistency on Bend Beyond. You can skip all the way from the first track to “Impossible Skys,” which is the second to last track here, still seeing some lineage in the sense that they’re still grooming blissful pop tunes. In fact, the majority of the songs in this collection share the same sentiment, though there are some differing variables that I’ve previously mentioned; those differences provide just another variation to leave you with a record that never sounds the same, but always sounds cohesive.
Ultimately, that’s where Woods leave off on this record, giving you a record that’s tied nicely together by the band’s focus. You’re not going to get bored listening to this album, but you’re surely going to leave your listening experience with happier ears. Some bands make pop music, others add elements of pop to their folk music, and when it’s done as well as it on Bend Beyond, you’re not going to see too many people complain.
There’s so many acts coming into town, it gets difficult to narrow down the ones that you really want to promote, as you love them all equally. I figure I should give my first shout out to a Canadien group, as they don’t always get to cross the borders as much as we’d like, so here’s Adam and the Amethysts. Read more