Woods - With Light & With Love

by Pete Super Rating:8.5 Release Date:2014-04-14

It's always weird to me when a band is disrespected because their records stop sounding like shit, and I'm certain Woods' recent output has hurt the feelings of a lot of lo-fi nerds. But how can you really despair when the songs and sound are this good? I'm sure someone will find a way but my advice is to just enjoy a great band on its own terms.

Woods' new entry in their career-long journey into hi-fidelity-by-increments sounds particularly sweet. Working from a manifesto I imagine must mention The Byrds' Fifth Dimension and American Beauty by Grateful Dead, Woods have continued to creep toward a sonic clarity which never quite shook off the glaze of crusty lo-fi psychedelia that has been their trademark. This time around the vision and the gear seem to have met on equal ground. While not a complete reinvention by any means, With Light and With Love trades the glaze for more traditional folk-rock instrumental accents and some very solid songcraft.

Opening track 'Shepard' starts things off with some sweet, yawning pedal steel, piano fills, and Leslie-effected vocals. And, I don't want to freak anyone out, a complete absence of electric guitar. Next is 'Shining', which employs a rising Hammond B3 to sweeten the pot. Woods mostly stick to the short songs formula they used for 2012's Bend Beyond with the exception of the title track, which clocks in at 9:07. Woods go all kinds of Eight Miles High on this one and succeed in showing off how their trademark psychedelia works in the context of their apparent studio acumen. It's fucking awesome is what I'm saying, kids.

Woods is a great melting pot of a band, and I pick up all kinds of shades of from the aforementioned classics of folk, rock, and psychedelia. In addition to this, you may pick up strains of Built to Spill, The Shins, and Will Oldham et al. With lyrics which meld new-agey affirmations with street-smart realism, the band take you on a guided tour of their version of Brooklyn, but I think it sounds a lot more like New Paltz (You're welcome upstate hippies. For UK readers, New Paltz = Woodstock).

A lot is sure to be made of the upgrade in recording technique, but the confident sticky melodies are the real centerpieces of this record. They weave around the sweet harmonics and embed themselves in your headheart. There's something both optimistic and melancholy in Woods' music. It's easy to imagine either dancing ecstatically or hanging your head and swaying to almost any song on With Light and With Love.

It's just hard to enjoy knowing it could sound like total garbage. I mean, just imagine if you could not hear any definition in the bass notes...

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