I like the band WOODS… a lot. I like the Brooklyn-based lo-fi, psych-folk outfit so much, in fact, that I’m legitimately torn by the recent release of the Capitol Hill Block Party schedule and the information that their set has been scheduled so that it overlaps with Thurston Moore‘s on another stage [pretty fucked up, guys!]. The CHBP stop is only one out of 3-months worth of summer tour dates (listed below) launching today and in support of their latest album, Sun & Shade, released earlier this week (streaming in full below). For anyone hoping to attend any of these shows in their own town and looking for a simple form of transportation to get there, the 4-piece has even collaborated with HABITAT skateboards to release 2 new WOODS-inspired skate decks (also released this week and pictured even further below).
We first wrote about the WOODS back in 2009, after witnessing an opening set for the Swedish band DUNGEN at a local Seattle gig. Originally formed in 2005 by Meneguar bandmates Jeremy Earl and Jarvis Taveniere, WOODS has managed to release a full-length of new material every year since 2006, including a one-off “self-titled” release under the moniker of Woods Family Creeps in 2008. By the time that I saw them in 09, the front-man (Earl) and multi-instrumentalist (Tavenier) had officially grown to a four-piece, which included G. Lucas Crane manipulating pre-recorded tape noises with a mixer at the front of the stage and Kevin Morby alternating bass and drum duties with Taveniere, during their live set. This was also the year that the group released the remarkable Songs of Shame, which truly brought Earl‘s warbling Neil Young-esque falsetto into the forefront, as Taveniere‘s vocals receded further into the background; an imminent progression that had been gradually evolving since their initial release. Songs of Shame is an undeniably strong effort and it became an instant favorite of mine. Last year’s follow-up, Live at Echo Lake, was an equally potent release that only magnified their abilities as song writers and verified assumptions that the crew had access to a seemingly endless supply of catchy, unshakable pop hooks. In fact, when played back to back, the two albums compliment each other so well that they actually feel more like one continuous 22-song release than the 2 separate 11-song albums that always seem to end before I want them to. What I’m trying to say is that they fit together like 2 halves of the Masters of the Universe Power Sword, but a lot more seamlessly.
This Tuesday June 14th, WOODS‘ 2011 album arrived like clockwork. The group’s track record for putting out such consistent work so consistently becomes even more impressive when the alternate projects and responsibilities that they have to tend to are taken into consideration. From the beginning, their albums were released on Jeremy Earl‘s cassette-only imprint, FuckItTapes, with the sister label, WOODSIST launching it’s first release in 2006. These days it seems like everyone has an imprint to release their own material, but WOODSIST has proven to be much more than just a vehicle to pump out albums by acts like WOODS, Meneguar, and Wooden Wand, whose former backing band The Vanishing Voice featured both Crane and Taveniere. The label’s actually proven to be one of the most perceptive judges of talent over the last half-decade, releasing acclaimed debuts for bands like Real Estate and WAVVES. They also put out an LP version of Kurt Vile‘s first record, Constant Hitmaker, as well as releases by Moon Duo, Ducktails, Crystal Stilts, Vivian Girls, Sic Alps, Excepter, The Fresh and Onlys, Thee Oh Sees, and plenty more. This makes Sun & Shade more than just the latest WOODS album; it’s also the latest addition to what has become an increasingly prolific and varied catalog for the label.
Even the title of Sun & Shade itself is a reflection of the versatility of the flagship group. With their lo-fi sound coupled with their psych, folk, and noise leanings, I find it hard to ever sufficiently describe WOODS as a “pop” group. Still, they somehow manage to assemble melodies so infectious that they emanate up like sweet, poisonous gas through the sun-damaged films that cover them. Sun & Shade is yet another example of WOODS‘ penchant for farming colonies of ear-worms under piles of sawdust, clumps of wet Earth, and dry brittle leaves. The first track, “Pushing Onlys“, instantly presents a more polished and accessible sound for the crew than ever before and it’s upbeat sound is reminiscent of Pebbles and Bam Bam performing “Let the Sun Shine In“. Even in this lead-off tune, however, there’s a rumbling undercurrent of clanking track and subtle howling wind that makes it feel as if the song is being slowly retrieved uphill in a mine cart. This is followed up by “Any Other Day“, prominently weaving ripples of noise around the melody like Aquaman‘s vibrating sonar rings, before dipping in and out of a full-on deconstructed breakdown/noise interlude. By the time we hit the next song, “Be All Be Easy” we are hearing the more subdued sounds of a gentle canoe swamp excursion that we are accustomed to hearing from the group. “Out of the Eye” comes next and is a welcomed instrumental track that continues to grow, breathe, rumble, and drop a lose screw here and there, while balanced on a consistent groove throughout. This is only the first third of the album, but it works as a fine example of all the directions and combinations that they continue to explore throughout the rest of the release, from poppy hooks to rusty bolts, bug zappers to clouds of humidity, and dust storms to electrical storms. WOODS is like the musical equivalent of what I expect flying a biplane might be like. Much of the time the songs glide and careen forward, but the possibilities for them to nose dive, barrel roll, and/or take a sharp turn at any moment are always there. Sometimes it’s a gentle walk down a simple woodland trail, but it’s just as likely that they choose to take the scenic route, hang-gliding over a canopy of trees and swooping down, skimming the tops of a lake and scattering water foul. Other times, they opt for cutting through forbidden shortcuts of overgrown thorn bushes or they simply fling their bodies into the dark bone crushing abyss of a rugged crag. In other words, the album’s pretty good and I’ve been enjoying it so far. It’s hasn’t gotten a hold of me as deeply as their past releases, but that’s what I like about WOODS so much, their albums have room to grow and cling onto you like barnacles. That’s the brilliance of the way that they craft their tunes, there’s always enough of a seed to plant itself in and develop, but they aren’t so “poppy” and catchy that they burn themselves out too fast.
Here’s the full stream, so you can check it out for yourself…
Coinciding with the June 14th album release is a collaborative deck between the band and HABITAT Skateboards. One of the decks features the Sun & Shade artwork, while the other deck honors the album At Echo Lake. Seeing as the woods is a habitat, I guess that the collaboration makes sense… I suppose that it also officially verifies that the band is named after a mass grouping of trees rather than after types of wood, such as oak or cedar. If that was the case, they might have gone with the company ELEMENT.
Here’s what the HABITAT had to say about the collaboration:
“We have always wanted to work with a band and expand our musical ties from video soundtracks into physical products. Woods is creatively a perfect fit and they played a big part in the sound and direction of our last video release ORIGIN. The first trailer to ORIGIN was set to a Woods song as well as Austyn Gillette and Silas Baxter Neal’s closing songs.”
Check out the HABITAT site by clicking HERE
You can pick up the new album at through WOODSIST at THIS LINK or at one of their live shows.
Fri-June-17 New York, NY St. Cecila’s Church ^
Mon-Jul-11 Boston, MA Brighton Music Hall *
Tue-Jul-12 Montreal, QC La Sala Rossa *
Wed-Jul-13 Toronto, ON Lee’s Palace *
Thu-Jul-14 Cleveland, OH Grog Shop *
Fri-Jul-15 Bloomington, IN Russian Recording *
Sat-Jul-16 Chicago, IL Pitchfork Music Festival
Mon-Jul-18 Minneapolis, MN 7th Street Entry #
Tue-Jul-19 Fargo, ND The Aquarium #
Sat-Jul-23 Vancouver, BC Electric Owl #
Sun-Jul-24 Bellingham, WA The Shakedown #
Mon-Jul-25 Portland, OR Doug Fir #
Wed-Jul-27 Sacramento, CA Sol Collective #
Thu-Jul-28 Brookdale, CA Brookroom at Brookdale Inn #
Fri-Jul-29 San Francisco, CA The Independent #
Sat-Jul-30 Big Sur, CA Woodsist Festival – Fernwood Lodge ***SOLD OUT***
Sun-Jul-31 Big Sur, CA Woodsist Festival – Henry Miller Library ***SOLD OUT***
Tue-Aug-02 Los Angeles, CA Echoplex #%
Wed-Aug-03 Phoenix, AZ Trunkspace %
Thu-Aug-04 El Paso, TX Black Market %
Fri-Aug-05 Austin, TX The Mohawk %
Sun-Aug-07 Oxford, MS Cats Purring Dude Ranch %
Mon-Aug-08 Atlanta, GA The Earl %
Tue-Aug-09 Asheville, NC Grey Eagle %
Wed-Aug-10 Washington DC Rock and Roll Hotel %*
Fri-Aug-12 Philadelphia, PA Johnny Brenda’s %
Sat-Aug-13 New York, NY Bowery Ballroom %!
Sun-Sep-04 Dorset, UK End of The Road Fest
Mon-Sep-05 Manchester, UK Sound Control *
Tue-Sep-06 Glasgow, UK Stereo*
Wed-Sep-07 Bristol, UK The Fleece *
Thu-Sep-08 London, UK Scala *
* = w/ Kurt Vile and the Violators
# = w/ The Fresh & Onlys
% = w/ White Fence
! = w/ Ducktails
^ = w/ Magik Markers & Ed Askew