Woods – Bend Beyond

Rating: ★★★★☆

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.

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