May 31, 2011

Review: Woods :: Sun & Shade

Sun & Shade is the kind of record you take out into the dessert with you, put on repeat, and suck on a couple hits of acid to while your subconscious commences an epic battle with itself. Or you could simply spin it on your turntable with a fresh cup of coffee on a sunny Saturday morning. Either works.

I'm no expert in the lo-fi and hazy folk-rock world of Woods, so I don't feel comfortable calling Sun & Shade the band's best record to date—but yes, I'm certainly thinking it. Despite the laid back vibe of Woods' acoustic psychedelia, this is a hardworking crew that's released an album every year since their 2006 debut. And as fond as I am of the band's last two full-length Songs of Shame and At Echo Lake, there is something very immediately appealing and accessible about Sun & Shade.

For starters, the LP contains some of Woods' most carefully crafted and hook-laden singles to date. Try "Who Do I Think I Am?" with its sharp upstroked guitar and catchy existentially confounded chorus or the quick and joyful stabs of acoustic lead on "What Faces The Sheet." Where singer Jeremy Earl might have polarized audiences in the past with his warbly tenor, his voice here sounds more confident and practiced than ever. That's particularly evident in the sunny falsetto-laden killer single "Pushing Onlys"—perhaps my favorite song of 2011. It's not that Woods have gone all polished and shiny production on us. The band's sound still has that distinctively weathered and worn quality—that freshly dusted off sound, as if you've found some lost piece of vinyl treasure—it's just never before been this consistently upbeat or brightly colored. Even the 7-minute-plus trance-like "Out Of The Eye" kicks forward with playful and mesmerizing guitar licks and splashy percussion. Sure, there might be some deeply-voiced dudes in the background chanting god knows what, but hey, they're just having a good time.

The LP has a few fun left-turns like the funky Caribbean and island ambience of "White Out" with it's hopping bass groove, rolling bongos, and clearly-toned dancing six-stringed lead. There's also some wandering, like on the 10-minute long "Sol Y Sombra," which sounds like a darkened after hours jaunt down bad trip alley. But that's balanced with a tremendous amount of purpose and precision. Take the highly melodic intro riffs to "Pushing Onlys" and "Hand It Out"—they cut quickly and sharply to the point, hooking and tightly reeling in your ear for the duration of this 12-song ride.

With contemporary music's endless supply of incoming new bands and albums and the internet's appallingly fast turnover rate, it's become harder than ever for bands to create and fans to find truly classic and timeless records. But they certainly still exist. Woods' Sun & Shade is a testament to that.

Download Sun & Shade now digitally or order the vinyl from Woodsist


1 comment:

  1. acoustic folk chill down.

    another matt carr