Review : Woods, The - At Echo Lake
PitchforkOne of the most promising developments of the last year or so in indie rock has been the removal of the Grateful Dead from the blacklist. Thanks to the valiant efforts of folks like Animal Collective and Arthur magazine, your average Brooklynite is starting to wonder why they ever hated the Dead in the first place. Truth be told, there's a lot to be learned from the Dead, and plenty of bands on both coasts seem to be taking notes. There's a re-emphasis on the live experience, on finding the psychedelic space within compositions, on not fearing the improv, on passing around music in cassette form. It's as refreshing as a 1967 Morning Dew.
Woods sound very little like the Dead; few of these bands actually do. But there's something of Garcia and co. in their DNA, most markedly in the free-form excursions of their live set, where the four-piece weaves through compelling improvisational passages. But the Grateful Dead made albums too, and the country-inflected indie pop that fills At Echo Lake, their fifth full-length and possibly their best, is a worthy heir as well. Loose, shuffling, and tuneful, the abridged Woods experience sounds more like Wowee Zowee than Workingman's Dead, but it hits just the right contradictory note of tight arrangements and breathing-room playing to get that back-porch, weird America vibe....full text
RevilerIt is becoming more and more prevalent for indie bands to reference classic rock bands, but I still think the fact that Brooklyn band Woods reference the tied died, woodsy (pun intended) strain of Crosby, Stills, Nash and Young still does set them apart. C, S, N, Y aren’t exactly Bowie, The Talking Head or the Stones as far as generally being accepted as cool cultural stepping stones. Following up their amazing Songs of Shame LP, the group is back with their latest LP on their own Woodsist label, the equally great At Echo Lake.
Like Songs of Shame, At Echo Lake comes across as a classic rock cover band playing acid soaked folk rock through damaged speakers. While the songs are pristine and well thought out, the sound the band cultivates is much more in line with some of their label mates who work hard to make their albums sound “lo-fi.” The simple and sweet melodies and fragile vocals are mixed with haunted backing noises and walls of sounds feedback to create a sound that has one foot decidedly in the past and one foot in the noisey, arty future. With songs like album standout “Time Fading Lines,” they could play it with crappy children’s instruments in an echo y airplane hanger and it would still be a powerful statement. The song sounds like a quiet hymn, equally parts optimism and regret, aided by Jeremy Earl’s stunning falsetto. When he sings “In an hour or so, I’ll let you know,” you know that whatever news was going to be passed along was going to hit like a ton of bricks. The homespun and organic lyrical content could make them sound like a cookie cutter folk band, but the group, aided by a band member and resident “tape-effects technician” G. Lucas Crane, never sound boring or predictable....full text
CrawdaddyWoods has grown on me. To be completely honest, the first time that I heard Songs of Shame, which was my introduction to their music, I thought it was kind of creepy and cold. Who knows? Maybe that was the idea. But after seeing Woods live several times last summer, and encountering the short but splendid Acoustic Family Creeps Plays Live in the Woods bootleg, their sound has come to make a lot more aural sense to me.
Perhaps my tastes have evolved to appreciate their tape loop aided, rustic-electric atmospheres. Perhaps I’m just more patient. Or maybe I’ve been brainwashed by singer/guitarist Jeremy Earl’s mewing falsetto. I guess I wouldn’t be alone.
If the artwork’s any clue, At Echo Lake (which takes its name from a song from Songs of Shame), was bound to be a summery kind of album. And it is in places. Sideways porch jams and bright, shuffling pop break through the clouds and drench the yard in transient sunshine. Despite their titles, “Blood Dries Darker” and “Suffering Season” are two of the most upbeat songs on the album. There’s a well-rooted, literal sense of moving on (”On/With it/On/On with direction”, and “Who knows what tomorrow might bring?”, respectively) that resonates well with their shifting tempos and sunny melodies. So while those summery songs have an undercurrent of hurt, that hurt is also transient. Time to get those feet moving, no matter where your head’s at....full text
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