Review Summary: There will always be a place for you, meet me on the other side
There are many contradictory descriptors that could be used to accurately portray the sound of Brooklyn’s Woods. Ominous but welcoming is perhaps one of the most fitting ways to describe their blend of indie-folk and psychedelic rock; seductive yet restrained is another. Therein lies the appeal of the band’s music – it’s not too firmly grounded in a specific influence or idea to risk branching out, but when it does, it does so gracefully and with flair. The band's 9th proper LP, City Sun Eater in the River of Light
, continues their illustrious streak of quality folk music that refuses to be defined by any particular label. So, what makes their latest outing so special? The answer lies in the album’s undeniable warmth and accessibility. They’ve sounded more jarring and psychedelic in the past, and even more focused, but their music has never gone down quite this smoothly before.
Throughout City Sun Eater in the River of Light
there are more musical influences than you can shake a stick at, yet not once does it feel off-putting or forced. ‘Morning Light’ marches forward confidently, with vibrant country-inspired guitars, bouncy pianos, and of course, Jeremy Earl’s hypnotizing work behind the microphone. He’s always had an arresting and airy performance strong enough carry a song on its own, but he sounds more reinvigorated than ever here. It’s an ear-worm if there ever was one, and one of the most accessible songs of Woods’ prolific career. It’s only a small taste of the album’s unique flavor, though, as the rest of the experience finds the band playfully tackling fresh ideas.
One welcome addition to their sound here lies in the Latin influences glittered casually throughout the album. The horns are a real treat on several tracks here; they contain all the pizzazz of a mariachi band, but are seamlessly blended into the album in a subtle way only Woods could pull off. Lead single ‘Sun City Creeps’ and ‘The Take’ bring to mind a scorching hot Mexican countryside with perky brass sections that dance alongside Earl’s distinct vocals. With such potent imagery arising from the addition of these trumpets, it’s almost surprising the skull plastered on the album cover isn’t sporting a large sombrero hat. Then again, the album’s not lacking in variety, and several tracks contain a completely different vibe altogether. The album closes with a trio of poignant songs that feel more stripped down, with ‘The Other Side’ building its foundation around little more than Earl’s gripping melodies and strong lyricism as he puts himself in the shoes of the deceased – there will always be a place for you, meet me on the other side.
His entrancing falsetto really works wonders here, bringing to mind the likes of Bon Iver’s Justin Vernon as he steals the show on the last three tracks. It’s unmistakable proof that despite a wide range of influences from reggae to African jazz, Jeremy Earl remains the true star of the show.
In a manner not too different from The Tallest Man On Earth’s Dark Bird Is Home
, Woods have refined their sound a good deal on their latest effort, but without sacrificing their exceptional songwriting and knack for thriving melodies. With all its subtleties, it’s all too easy to overlook the lyrical genius buried within the bright instrumentation, but Earl’s way with words remains as prominent as ever in his latest batch of sunny, do-it-yourself folk tunes. Whether he’s steering the band into uncharted territory or showing off his roots, it always sounds undoubtedly like a Woods album – and that’s perhaps the greatest achievement of all.