Review Summary: Smooth psych-folk with artful ambition and no tangible bounds.Strange to Explain
is like stumbling into a neon-lit, magical forest. Rooted in lush acoustic indie-folk that features everything from flutes to gorgeous brass, it expands its reach fearlessly into synthesized psychedelia, seamlessly merging it all into an experience that could soundtrack your next camping, or acid, trip. It glows with an inviting warmth, and once you get sucked in by its various charms, you’ll become lost in a kaleidoscope of musical color.
Jeremy Earl’s spellbinding vocals anchor the album, his voice a perfect blend of stained-glass elegance and the whispering wind. He wastes little time injecting Strange to Explain
with warm summer imagery, singing of beaches, the sea, and making memories all within the first ninety seconds of the record. It’s an aura matched by the opener’s bouncing rhythm comprised of drums, trumpets, and a warped-sounding synthesizer. Those “summer vibes” continue throughout Strange to Explain
, thanks to its exploratory whims, fluid progression, and affinity for breezy indie-pop melodies.
A common pitfall for psych-folk albums is that the further they evade the tangible, the more everything starts to bleed together into an amorphous blob of pleasantly forgettable atmospheres. Woods, now eight records into their illustrious yet understated careers, manage to deftly toe around this trap – typically by knowing precisely when to shake things up. After the first three songs – all light and whimsical – brush past us, we’re treated to an uptick in rock tempo with drums and nuanced electric riffs crashing the forefront of the mix. They pull the rug out from beneath us again two songs later on ‘The Void’, a tricked-out number that weaves sparkling, xylophone-like keys in with mariachi-styled horns – the latter of which fills the role of an instrumental solo, stretching out across the song’s final minute.
In balancing the earthly and ethereal, Woods tread a typically difficult line with apparent ease. ‘Just to Fall Asleep’ employs a water-droplet electronic sound effect that makes Strange to Explain
feel even easier to sink into; a lesser band wouldn’t be able to execute this without it sounding ham-fisted or cheesy, but Woods pull it off without a shred of hesitation or doubt. It’s the same thing with the bird chirps and garden sounds that introduce the penultimate ‘Be There Still’ – an acoustic ballad that swells with a placid synthesizer line and distantly beautiful strings. The band seems to arrive at their intended destination on the seven minute, fully instrumental anti-epic of a closer, ‘Weekend Wind’. Rather than erupting in some sort of grandiose curtain call, Woods send Strange to Explain
quietly off into the ether. The song is a relaxingly freeform, jazzy jam session – and the longer the song continues, the quieter the all the woodwinds become. It’s as if someone is riding off into the sunset on a hot air balloon while playing the trumpet – and by the end of the album, all we’re left with is the grass beneath our feet – a lone, crunchy drum beat.
Strange to Explain
is an appropriate title because it is almost
indefinable . It’s best described by concocting imagery that seems to befit the music, whether it’s an analogy or a reference to colorful shades and hues. This album is somewhere between the band’s earth-bound, folksy namesake – Woods – and that luminous alternate dimension you see pictured in the artwork. Through it all, Strange to Explain
is warm, weightless, and free-spirited. It doesn’t need to be compartmentalized – it’s gorgeous, and that’s enough.