Due Out: April 14th
Bright, clear and pleasant, Woods' newest effort, Songs of Shame, has seemingly come out of the (wait for it)...woods, so to speak. Mixing elements of lo-fi, psychadelia and folk, the album does not mark a departure from their earlier sound, but rather, a reworking of it. It's still the same band, just making the natural progression toward a more mature and refined sound. I've already seen some skepticism amongst fans around the web, similar to the hesitance of Iran's fans to embrace the band's fantastic new album, Dissolver. However, if the skeptics bear with me for this, maybe they might come around, and even learn to enjoy this new and interesting listen.
The opener, "To Clean," brings a sort of raw and youthful energy out immediately. This demeanor remains at the forefront for its entirety, setting the stage for the rest of the album. The song, somehow, also feels clean- pure, if you will. Must be that youthfulness that you catch on to within seconds. Similarly, the second track, "The Hold," grabs you (pun intended) with a like mix of the band's traditional lo-fi nature, along with the bright blend of folk and psychadelia in the background. "The Number," the third part of what some could refer to as the first act of the record, maintains the previous sound, while seemingly drifting a bit out of the structured confines of the others. The soaring falsetto and battling guitars become entrenched, and the relaxing nature of the album takes over, seemingly letting you drift, but only momentarily.
For almost 10 minutes, you won't hear another word. "September with Pete" checks in with an engaging and active trip into the earthy psychadelia the band is usually known for, giving the listener a lot to consume, but a lot to like as well. Though it remains bright, it pales in comparison to the beginning of the album. Still, the trip stops the group of recordings from melting together too much, which I'll always consider a good thing. From there, "Down this Road"eases us back into the previous cheery aesthetic, allowing us time to settle before hopping back in for what is one of the best tracks on the record, "Military Madness (Graham Nash)". The song kind of reminds me of Simon & Garfunkel a bit, and in no way is that a bad thing. S&G had a penchant earthy-type folk, so I suppose the comparison fits quite aptly actually. "Born to Lose" and "Echo Lake" follow, and are the type of songs that you may forget initially, but after a listen or two, realize that they are some if the record's best offerings, and the gears that keep an effort like this flowing smoothly. As they hop along, you immerse yourself further in, barely realizing the time that has passed outside of the songs.
Next is "Rain On," the first single, I'm supposing, based on the fact that the band already gave everybody a free preview (it's up here a few posts back). As I said then, the song reminds me of an early Shins b-side- you know, before everyone knew them from Garden State (great movie- I don't hate). At first, it seems like it slows the record down a tad, but in reality, the track maintains the steady rhythm it had established on the previous tracks. The real sound explosion happens on "Gypsy Hand," literally a pop song, bouncing off the walls with an array of sounds you haven't seen yet on the album, at least not all at once. Not to end the album out of character, "Where and What Are You" brings us back to the relaxing and pleasant tonality that got us here in the first place, easing you out of the record.
What hit me most about Songs of Shame was the simplicity of it all. It's an enjoyable and fun listen, without getting too much sound, too much effort, or too many technicalities. As I said, it's relaxing, and its overall pleasant disposition is definitely reason enough to listen. This album of natural progression never tries to do too much, but yet doesn't seem to be holding back either. It grabs that all-too-rare dynamic of striking it just right, and providing us with a great listening experience. For similarities, I'd recommend checking out the aforementioned Simon & Garfunkel, as well as early stuff from The Shins, and Here We Go Magic.
Best Track: "Gypsy Hand"
Bonus .mp3, courtesy of Stereogum: Woods- "Rain On"