Woods
With Light And With Love


4.1
excellent

Review

by Rudy K. STAFF
April 29th, 2014 | 29 replies | 5,508 views


Release Date: 04/15/2014 | Tracklist

Review Summary: The shape of summer to come.

As much a collective and an ethos as a functioning band, the increasingly well-groomed Brooklyn outfit Woods had released five albums in five years up to and including 2012’s high water mark Bend Beyond, yet it never really seemed like they had strayed far from their roots. The psychedelic jams were a bit more clear-eyed, and the production increasingly sharp, sure, but Woods remained Woods – a quirky, stony Americana band letting their freak folk flag fly. With Light & With Love is a thoughtfully considered attempt to broaden their still relatively narrow reach, moving the group’s sack of Nuggets imitations, roots-rock grooves, and jam band dalliances into nicer studio digs and creating the band’s most chiseled set of tunes yet. For all of Woods’ seemingly makeshift sound and uncanny ability to make a studio cut sound like a tossed-off practice session, it’s the group’s significant songwriting talents that have enabled them to continue on more or less as they’ve always wanted to. With Light & With Love, then, is the less unkempt cousin of its predecessors, finely polished over what constitutes a lengthy recording time for the band (two whole years!). As an attempt to bring in more fans, it should have no problem accomplishing its mission, airplay and word of mouth permitting.

I’m also happy to report that, mainstream baiting notwithstanding, With Light & With Love is the best Woods record yet, a tinkering of the charmingly sincere folksiness of Bend Beyond into something even more muscular and full-bodied. There’s still some of the raggedness of their earlier records, a trait that makes the exceedingly well-crafted melodies and band interplay here seem natural and effortless. The title track, in particular, comfortably encapsulates their entire career into an extended instrumental bridge that stretches out into the band’s longest song to date before crashing back into that gorgeous chorus. It’s a bit of a tease, and surprisingly effective in how it characterizes its wanderings not as an indulgence, but as a necessary outgrowth of the song's core melody. One listen to With Light & With Love, though, does not leave you asking for longer songs. These are cuts that work well within the confines of three or four-minute pop, be they blissful psychedelia or well-worn country roads. “Shepherd” opens the record on a mournful alt-country note, the pedal-steel shuffling ever onward. “Leaves Like Grass” rumbles along a busy, bubbling bass line and vocalist Jeremy Earl’s lilting vocals, while “Full Moon” revolves around a sparkling guitar hook, that sunny ‘70s California feel clouded a bit by Earl’s hangdog singing. Earl’s high, reedy voice has always been the perfect one to cut through some of the sonic soup that characterized their prior work; here, his vocals work in tandem with the sinewy guitar lines and the classicism of the pop melodies packed into every song, becoming less a guiding light and more another instrument to play along with the indelible hooks weaved into each tune. It’s a testament to the group’s growth as a band that these tunes sound just as expansive and thorough as any in the band’s untidy and more stereotypically “adventurous” back catalog.

Earl’s rather indistinct lyrical presence – talk of the light and the dark, a nagging sense of foreboding usually washed away by the bright melodies and Woods’ generally amicable mood – may turn off some listeners, but it’s an essential part of With Light & With Love. For all the accessibility of this album’s production, it remains a nakedly emotional release from the band. Stripped of the instrumental murkiness that some of their earlier records had immersed themselves in, it reveals a band and a singer confident in their ability to stand apart. In this aspect, With Live & With Love is Woods in their purest distillation yet. Earl’s presence has never been as integral as it is here, warding off the shadows that creep into “Only The Lonely” and the self-doubt in “Full Moon” and maintaining a grounded, uniquely American perspective on the Big Themes in life. “Your only hope for tomorrow, is to start anew,” he sings on “New Light.” It’s an eternally optimistic cliché Earl, Woods, and the multifaceted activities of the Woodsist collective have embraced to the point of rendering its inherent cheesiness moot.

With Live & With Love closes with the atypically haunting “Feather Man,” a strangely unsettling ballad that borders on dirge territory and features lyrics that are even more opaque than Earl’s usual. It’s an odd way to end what is, on the whole, the kind of record to soundtrack sunbaked summer months and the kind of events you prop up in your memory as emblems of better days. It’s a nifty little wink to their deep, twisted roots, a final reversal to what is a deftly textured record on closer inspection. As the album's closer, “Feather Man” is perfect, a cryptic question mark for a band that’s never been too concerned with a neatly packaged resolution. Another cliché, then: With Light & With Love reminds us that asking those questions is often more fun than finding the answers. I’m sure they wouldn’t have it any other way.




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user ratings (45)
Chart.
3.8
excellent

Comments:Add a Comment 
klap
Staff Reviewer
April 29th 2014



10325 Comments

Album Rating: 4.1

meant to review this earlier but Coachella got in the way. highly recommended

Digging: Literature - Chorus

NinoKuni
April 29th 2014



198 Comments


This is some pretty breezy stuff

Aids
Contributing Reviewer
April 29th 2014



23806 Comments


great review, gonna check this out

Kiran
Emeritus
April 29th 2014



6001 Comments

Album Rating: 3.5

oooooh man, i've been looking forward to this album

scissorlocked
April 29th 2014



3509 Comments

Album Rating: 3.5

nice review

summer album indeed

Digging: Leon Vynehall - Music For The Uninvited

alachlahol
April 29th 2014



7484 Comments


erg i liked bend beyond

alachlahol
April 29th 2014



7484 Comments


do you hear me i liked it

EaglesBecomeVultures
April 29th 2014



5224 Comments

Album Rating: 3.5

lovely album

klap
Staff Reviewer
April 29th 2014



10325 Comments

Album Rating: 4.1

yeah bend beyond was sweet

PorkchopExpress
April 29th 2014



387 Comments

Album Rating: 4.5

Wait people didn't like Bend Beyond?

Review is good would read again

menawati
Contributing Reviewer
April 29th 2014



15906 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0

thought this wasnt my cup of tea after first 2 songs but then i heard the title track and changed my
mind

wow that theremin on moving to the left

Digging: Nemrud - Journey of the Shaman

Mythodea
April 29th 2014



704 Comments


Not a fan of the genre but the description (about summers) rang a bell so I decided to give it a try. Not bad, not bad so far... Still want to spin it two or three times more...

menawati
Contributing Reviewer
April 29th 2014



15906 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0

this thing definitely gets much better further in, well for me anyway, like it even more 2nd time
round

Hep Kat
April 29th 2014



15347 Comments

Album Rating: 3.5

this is their best album. much better than the last one

Digging: Botany Boyz - Forever Botany

klap
Staff Reviewer
April 29th 2014



10325 Comments

Album Rating: 4.1

rare hep kat endorsement

silentstar
April 29th 2014



2245 Comments


he doesn't sound like someone with a beard

I like it

Kiran
Emeritus
April 30th 2014



6001 Comments

Album Rating: 3.5

they started to come into their own on bend beyond but this is another big step up

Irving
Staff Reviewer
April 30th 2014



7167 Comments


"Sonic soup" is such a wonderful term.

Digging: Ty Segall - Manipulator

Slut
April 30th 2014



2461 Comments


tape-effects technician G. Lucas Crane

huh? lol

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TWIGtheWONDERKID
May 1st 2014



743 Comments

Album Rating: 3.5

Loving the title track.

Digging: The Auteurs - New Wave



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