Woods seem to deftly avoid buckling under the weight of their glaring faults by swallowing them whole; playing up on their weaknesses, and making them part of their sound. Let’s face it, Woods have never been the most technically impressive band, with their previous releases displaying a fairly weak group, and one in dire need of progression. Vocally and instrumentally, there just isn’t much there, the band is largely weak, lurid, and unskilled. However, it somehow all comes together very well, and by all rights better than it should, keeping At Echo Lake
from becoming the mess it could have been.
With At Echo Lake
, Woods have indeed progressed as a band, but only marginally. The vocalist still can’t hold a steady tone to save his life, and his falsetto is often grating, which is a shame because it is used so very frequently. The rest of the band has brought about the same changes as well, with the guitars being played with only a tad bit more fervor and skill than a young man who has just discovered the instrument. Yeah, there are some charms to found in their playing, but as a whole it all come off as a little underwhelming. In fact, the band itself comes off as underwhelming, with other acts in their niche genre doing exactly what Woods are doing, and doing it much better.
Woods genre is somewhere around straight forward indie-rock with folk leanings. However, they’ve kind of latched on to the whole ‘lo-fi’ craze permeating the genre, and honestly, it helps At Echo Lake
quite a bit. The whole affair feels so organic and off the cuff, that it can’t be helped feeling that the band jammed a bit at the recording studio and left things as they were. It’s the minor imperfections in sound that make At Echo Lake
better than the sum of its parts. It’s wonderfully campy, like something you would hear next to a bonfire. The warm but hollow feeling makes the album welcoming and personable, and detracts from the band’s weaknesses.
Yet even with its faults, At Echo Lake
is charming in its own right. It’s blissfully upbeat, with songs like “Suffering Season” feeling like impelling sunshine. The majority of the album feels like that, making it frighteningly inoffensive. That being said, there is more to the album than cute, upbeat songs however, with “Pick Up” feeling like a slower, more deliberate tune, with the a suffocating production covering the entire track. “From the Horn” is a purely instrumental piece, and has a very apparent “jam band” aesthetic. “Death Rattles” is sang with the feeling of a lovelorn man, with the more meandering mood being conducive to somberness and longing. These tracks actually give quite a lot to At Echo Lake
, hoisting it above what would otherwise be a vapid, saccharine affair.
Woods manage to impress with their sophomore release, going above Songs of Shame
(if only a little), and creating an intensely enjoyable experience. However, the band’s intrinsic faults and blemishes do in fact bring down the album, with the members themselves being to blame. That aside, the band is clearly improving, with At Echo Lake
being evidence of that. Sure they’re baby steps, but it is nice to see Woods, a band with promise, take the initiative to realize their potential.