Sunday, April 20, 2014

Album Review: Woods - With Light and With Love

Album Rating: B+
Woods have always been on the precipice of perfect moderation, and their seventh album in nine years is no exception. Their prolific churning has cumulated into some of the most forthright Indie Folk released in years. Applying the Goldilocks formula, With Light and With Love finds the balance between the rustic without being played, introspective without being over-indulgent and fondly familiar without the innocuous resin that laces most seasoned folk acts by this stage in their career, conditioned facial hair included.

Off the the back of 2012’s stretched and brittle Bend Beyond, Woods have varnished themselves off to a gleaming example of progressive Indie, retaining their coiled psych influences and creative instrumental breakdowns in lieu of some recycled melodies and themes. Frontman Jeremy Earl further embraces his infatuation with mortality and fleeting sentiment performed with an unsupposing resonance, teeming with existential wordplay.

And this rings apparent throughout the whole record as showcased with title track and album centrepiece “With Light and With Love”, a nine minute heavyweight of tectonic dynamism. Scattered guitars jitter while Earl sings with ironic uncertainty considering this album demonstrates his writing with the most determination and craftsmanship he, and Woods, have ever showed in nearly a decade. Though, at the backend of the track, without grandiose climax, the galvanic middle eight fizzles back into it’s spritely chorus, no blown fuse or anything - a mist of disappointment over what could have been Woods’ first contact with stadium potential, but maybe retaining their forlorn intimacy is a more effective tactic for a band that have climbed the ranks through humility and patience.

But not all of this record is constructed of behemoth micro-symphonies. On the opposite side of the range, tracks like “Shining” and “New Life”, possessing some of the most propitious and infectious grooves on this album, end too soon leaving no room to digest or mull the reflective balladry Earl recites.
In spite of this lyrical beguiling, Woods dig deep and shed light on some instrumental intonations unheard on previous records. On “Leaves Like Glass” the sober and translucent cadences of the clean guitars drain swelled hearts and “Twin Steps” is an arcane transportation to the psyche-realm as modulated vocals and waltzing guitar squelches are the order of the day - Woods are never shy to uphold their stature as jacks of many genres.

On the closing trifecta of songs, Woods play true to their name, navigating what appears as familiar terrain but are intrinsically varied soundscapes like visually enticing “Full Moon”; it depicts a rich lunar atmosphere and imagines of still bodies of water with a palpitating wah effect. Or take the reminiscent lull that seeps through “Only the Lonely", sounding closer to The Shins than Woods have ever ventured, and that not need be a bad thing.

Final number “Feather Man” sees Earl loom and sift his way through a wincingly familiar blues melody as chewed and brewing accompaniments teeter in the background; what echoes at the forefront of this track is the overwhelming significance of Woods’ music. They capture timeless elements and homely progression without ever sounding like we are revisiting, for those well-versed in their discography, previous records. With unhampered production and a gleaming finish, With Light and With Love is a welcome addition to the Woods family, one that’s effortlessly easy to accept with open arms.

Track List
1) Shepherd
2) Shining
3) With Light and with Love
4) Moving to the Left
5) New Light
6) Leaves like Glass
7) Twin Steps
8) Full Moon
9) Only the Lonely
10) Feather Man

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