Friday, April 10, 2009
Album: Songs of Shame
Rating: ******** (8/10)
This is my second post about Woods in a week, but for good reason. Their newest album, Songs of Shame will be released by their own label, Woodsist, next week.
Woods are a psychedelic folk-pop band that sounds like the ghosts of the Byrds - similar earthy pop delivered in a high register, but overshadowed by a haunted, otherworldly sorrow. Their lo-fi aesthetic doesn't use blanket static - there's not much distortion at all, except on an occasional lead guitar. Instead, they are lo-fi in a way that sounds distant (like the songs of a distant future's distant past) and secretive (there's a hint of something behind the music that you know you'll never understand).
Songs of Shame certainly shows the band's evolution since their last LP, 2007's At Rear House. Most importantly, they've branched out melodically. On Rear House, numerous songs follow the same melodic contour laid out in its first track, while on Songs of Shame, the songs are far less formulaic. This also means many of the melodies are more subtle and less immediately memorable than the songs on Rear House, but if they draw you in more slowly, they also draw you in more deeply.
The album opens with "To Clean," one of my favorite Woods tracks ever, followed by the excellent "The Hold," which contrasts a typically beautiful Woods melody over a very odd rhythm on tuned drums. Track three, "The Number," is also a Woods classic to-be, and again, features a masterfully composed tune. Later on the record, "Military Madness" (a Crosby, Stills and Nash cover) and "Rain On" are the most captivating songs. The cover is brilliant, mostly because Woods's unique sound guarantees they will reinvent any song they play, even from another band who mixed psychedelic, pop and folk influences.
There are even more indulgent experimental forays here than on Rear House, most notably the nearly ten minute long instrumental centerpiece. The song is much too long and repetitive for someone of my attention span, but it definitely has its moments of beauty. Still, it doesn't do anything unexpected, just trances out, swells up and then dies down. It's not bad, but it's not much of a contribution to the indie canon.
If this is your first time listening to Woods, I'd recommend checking out In Rear House first (also available from Woodsist). It's more accessible and a better introduction to the band. But you might as well get both at once, since once you check out Rear House, you're going to want more. And this, the artistically stronger album, is bound to captivate anyone familiar with the mysterious charm of Woods.
Woods on MySpace