Posted on April 11th, 2014 (2:50 pm) by Nick Manai

If you have tried out Woods before and could not get beyond lead singer Jeremy Earls delicate falsetto and the band's overall commitment to '60s sunny side up pop (and the overall peace, love and eccentrics of that time), With Light and With Love, as the title may suggest, may not win you over. This is Woods’ eighth LP in nine years; they had released the first seven in seven consecutive years before taking just a little bit more time for this one. But it doesn’t show, and that, strangely, for there are few bands as wholly conceived from the beginning, is a compliment to Woods.

Their last album, Bend Beyond, was a major revelation of sorts in the Woods catalog because it did not feature a nine-minute plus explorative jam. Opener "With Light and With Love" sees the reemergence of their sonic doodling, but with more of a punk chords outline than an eastern influenced freak out. Some see the group as a New York City Grateful Dead, but that comparison only holds up at the Dead’s two extremes. The glossy folk of “Box of Rain” or “Ripple” holds alongside the extended solos of any live recording, but Woods never seem concerned with extended ballads at which those San Franciscans became so skilled.

But Woods are always dabbling in their sound. Each of their previous records seemed to offer a new twist, minor though it may have been that explained at least a starting point for the question, “What have you guys been up to lately?” With Light and With Love offers a renewed focus on percussion, which sounds more upfront, as on “Moving To the Lefts.” A woozy bass kick drives these songs along at a pace that Woods had never committed to much before. There is also the noticeable engineering of Earls’ falsetto which has never sounded less direct, even when he is imploring desperately.

On two of the albums best tracks “Shepherd,” which makes use of one of the year’s most heart-breaking lap steel whines, and the cozy '60s-isms of “New Light,” an example of the pure Woods mission statement both sonically and lyrically, Earls’ vocals are not so much distorted as they are refracted or reflected. It is not a major leap, but enough to turn your head toward the speaker and crane your neck just a little. Change moves slowly in the world of Woods.

But if you’ve come for some of the most immediately catchy melodies that are sturdy enough to stand without taglines, there really has not been anyone quite like Woods over the years. Even when they strap on some electric guitars (“Twin Steps”) or try to branch out into more austere surroundings (“Feather Man”), there is always the underlining calm of their melodies. And then of course there are those moments of unabashed beauty like “Only the Lonely.”

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
Woods: With Light and With Love
Purchase at: Amazon | eMusic

Our Rating

76 / 100
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