Woods – With Love and With Light

woods1With Light And With Love is Woods’ 8th album since 2006. They also run their own annual Woodsist Festival that would include acts like Foxygen, Little Wings and Angel Olsen; and their own Woodsist record label that would carry names like Kurt Vile.

The album itself sweeps from folk to Americana to psychedelic to indie, with hints of The Byrds to Phosphorescent to Love; and now and again a few of those can be found in one track. The first track Shepherd is a summer evening of a song with slide guitar and a full-on Blitzen Trapper vibe. At points it sounds like a bird whistle glides in at the end of key lines, keeping it upbeat and young. ‘Shining’ feels equally sun blushed, but with lines like “You might find out soon, the past comes back to haunt you too”, you may prefer a bit of company on that summer evening.

Title track With Light And With Love is over nine minutes long, harking back to Woods’ previous albums with long jam leanings. It sits in contrast to tracks like Shining or Twin Steps at around two and half minutes.  In the same way that Jeremy Earl’s high light vocals contrast with the serious guitar and relentless drums. There’s a Dark Side Of The Moon pulse to this one that keeps you locked in right to the end.

Moving To The Left is a wonderful mix up. It has a 90’s pop feel, with a buoyant Americana drift, and some haunting saw music for atmosphere. New Light has that Byrds thing I mentioned before; and Twin Steps reminded me of what Cashier No.9 would sound like if they spent more time hanging out at small Californian folk festivals. The opening bars of Leaves Like Glass point in the direction of Bob Dylan or even Van Morrison, until Jeremy’s vocals and tenor grab the song back and place it firmly in the Woods pile.

A big retro My Sweet Lord touch sweeps over you on Full Moon. But again the 90’s pop can be found running through it. That is between the George Harrison slide and Jeremy’s vocals once again making it undeniably Woods. Only The Lonely is musically upbeat for what could be a sad or sentimental song, and this is actually quite a typical tone of the album. It’s positive, optimistic and even a bit wholesome.

The last track Feather Man uses strings to full effect and takes full advantage of Jeremy’s falsetto with an almost keening intro. It ends on wood chimes, dreamscape sounds and disembodied talking; and yet again lyrics like “I’ll fall apart, but I’ll be back soon, I’ll be there with a smile” keep things sanguine.

This very hard working 3-piece has averaged roughly an album a year since 2006. This on top of Woodsist Festival and record label is impressive. Their multi-instrumentalist Jarvis Taveniere told me that the festival holds about 350 people and when I asked how that covers costs he smiled. “A lot of the guys that play are our friends”.  There’s that attitude again, that easy optimism that imbues the album. It obviously works for them. Cara Gibney, GiggingNI.com