With the release of With Light and With Love, out now on Woodsist, Brooklyn’s Woods have embarked on tour and are slated to play at Strange Matter this coming Sunday, April 27th.
With the recent surge in electronic music, it seems just about every other band is making a point to add synthetic textures to their music. However, psychedelic folk outfit Woods take a more traditional approach. With their latest release, With Light and With Love, Woods continue to make use of classic motifs and keep it interesting by incorporating a wide variety of nostalgic influences.
Woods draw not just from psychedelia and folk styles but other genres like country, blues, lo-fi, acoustic, and indie pop/rock. If there’s one thing Woods does exceptionally well, it’s combining all of these influences in a way that sounds cohesive and natural.
Gone is the lo-fi aesthetic of the band’s earlier records. With Light and With Love favors warmer tones and full-bodied instrumentation. However, this shouldn’t come as much of a surprise considering their last record, 2012’s Bend Beyond, was also very polished and smoothed over. The production shines on With Light and With Love, and Woods’ vintage flair really comes through. There’s a nice layer of psychedelic effects throughout the record that nods to classic production styles.
Not only is the production great, the band’s playing is pretty impressive too. Woods keep it mellow for the most part but there are some more energetic moments as well. Take the title track, for instance; this 9 minute blues rock jam is full of guitar solos with a tight groove. This track really showcases the band’s technical ability, and the boost in production quality really does them justice.
However energetic the title track may be, the band keeps it chill most of the time. This album is definitely an easygoing listen, and I can’t imagine Woods’ music offending anyone. Jangly guitars, even-paced drums and steady basslines are all expected, but they do try to mix things up. The opening track, “Shepard,” features some shimmering pedal steel guitar. It’s something they haven’t done before and sets a country tone for With Light and With Love that’s echoed throughout the album.
Jeremy Earl’s gentle vocals really vibe well with the band’s sound. Earl’s lyrics are very imaginative, but also cryptic, and often don’t send a clear message. His delivery is breezy and innocuous but I can’t help but hear a trace of Tiny Tim in Earl’s voice on “Shepard,” when he sings; “Falling in and out of love / Breaking shackles from the start / and this world, it holds you too.” There are also subtle swirls of psychedelic effects layered on the vocals that add a nice texture.
As mentioned before, the band really pulls from many styles, and they wear their influences on their sleeve. Ian Cohen at Pitchfork writes “‘Moving to the Left’ isn’t their first shot at a crossover, but it’s their best; they emphasize their rhythm section with caricatured, bulging bass and a snappy, near-synthetic drum track that typifies Yoshimi-era Flaming Lips.” Since the band does borrow from classic melodies and rhythms, With Light and With Love sounds very familiar from the get-go. There are times when the band comes into their own, on tracks like “Only the Lonely,” but it’s a shame there aren’t more original moments on this album. However, this isn’t necessarily a bad thing–just don’t expect the album to cover any new territory.
Overall With Light and With Love is another solid addition to the Woods discography. The band continues to perfect their radiant, mellow style while paying homage to the old school.
Woods will perform Sunday, April 27 at Strange Matter with Boston psychedelic band Quilt and local garage-rockers Warren Hixson. Doors open at 8 PM, admission is $12 (order advance tickets here: http://woodsva.eventbrite.com/). For more info, click here.