Posted on May 27th, 2010 (5:20 pm) by Bradley Hartsell

Last year’s Songs of Shame was not an entirely cohesive album, not even close. Streaking bouts of greatness and mediocrity—that was Woods last year. That album had a handful of the most hook-laden songs of the year, but also a couple of straight misfires. Maybe you didn’t want to play Songs of Shame all the way through, but you could find five songs from it to keep on repeat.

Stylistically, Woods haven’t changed a thing. On their new album they’re still hell-bent on catchy art-folk, with that veil of lo-fi haze over Jeremy Earl’s voice. Take the make-up of “Rain On” or “The Numbers” and the same formula still applies to almost anything on At Echo Lake. I would argue that the melodies on the “The Numbers,” “Down This Road,” “Military Madness,” and “Rain On” are right near the top of the pile in terms of 2009’s music. Woods, at times, were downright awesome. But “September With Pete” was a nine and half minute instrumental clunker. “Gypsy Hand” was forgettable. Several other songs did pretty well, but paled in comparison to the aforementioned Fabulous Four.

There are several excellent songs on At Echo Lake, but fewer of them engrave the mind like “Military Madness.” To be fair, “Down This Road” and “Military Madness” have been in my head for a year. So, really, it’s not a knock on these songs, which are still very catchy. “Pick Up” throws its name in the ring early on for rights to stand in “Military’s Madness’” court, and it does hold up. The verses flow in harmony with the chorus, swirling into an unyielding cocoon of melody.

“Suffering Season” leans heavily on its chorus, producing favorable results. The band’s ability to feed the song’s mood and atmosphere right into their melodies creates a lush dimension for the music to exist in. “Time Fading Lines” is a perfect example. This song is another pastel verse-chorus song that borders on pensive. The atmosphere rings of a flowing meadow, but Earl gives the impression that his surroundings aren’t necessarily in his comfort zone. He always seems a bit haunted. “Time Fading Lines” has as strong a chance as any to stack up with the best of Woods’ 2009 work.

The band can’t help but scratching an itch on “From the Horn,” which is an indulgent punk/folk guitar squall. It’s hopelessly pointless, much like “September With Pete,” but it’s barely two minutes long. After the unnecessary detour, it’s back to work. “Death Rattles” is excellent, standing as a worthy sidekick to “Time Fading Lines.” Then, Woods kick-off a five-song finale of two-minute tracks. The songs feel a little rushed, abrupt to end, but not in a bad way. Ultimately, the songs are effective and efficient. At Echo Lake is a stronger, more cohesive album than Songs of Shame, but with a little less kick. All in all, Woods splits the difference and comes out even; this is still some of the most rewarding music you’ll hear in 2010.

Track List:
1. Blood Dries Darker
2. Pick Up
3. Suffering Season
4. Time Fading Lines
5. From the Horn
6. Death Rattles
7. Mornin’ Time
8. I Was Gone
9. Get Back
10. Deep
11. Til the Sun Rips

Purchase at: Amazon | eMusic

Our Rating

82 / 100
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