Woods is a New York-based indie folk band, reminiscent of, say, a mix of the Byrds and early 70s Neil Young, as unfair a comparison that may be. The band has been releasing albums and EPs since 2007, and this is their 5th proper studio album if I'm counting right.
"Bend Beyond" (12 tracks; 33 min) starts off with the epic 5 min. title track, by far the longest song on here, and a great 70s-sounding alt-country track with even a guitar solo and an all-out jamming outro, just beautiful. It is followed by "Cali In a Cup" (1st single), the most accessible track on here, just great. After that, the album consist of many 2 min. tracks, in which Jeremy Earl, the band's lead singer and songwriter, makes a musical point and then moves on quickly. Check out "Is It Honest?", a quickie that just oozes the Byrds. With so many short tracks, at times it makes for a dizzying listen, as the song whiz by in no time, but that is not a complaint.
In all, this is a GREAT album, which I've been listening to non-stop. I had the great fortune of catching Woods in concert recently at the MidPoint Music Festival here in Cincinnati, where the band (a four-some in concert) brought a dazzling 45 min. set, including a number of tracks from this album. Live these songs sounded even better than the studio versions. Meanwhile, "Bend Beyond" is HIGHLY RECOMMENDED!
on September 20, 2012
Bend Beyond might be the most complete album that Woods has produced. Each track is melodic and distinct; I'd rank the title track as one of their best, but each track has those small moments that surprise and endear.
I was surprised by how clearly-produced the music is, but it is another reminder that Woods' strength is in melody and lyricism, rather than the lo-fi sound. The lyrics are still toeing the line somewhere between depressing and hopeful, but Jeremy Earl's shows more command than ever. The guitars chime clearer than ever, while the textures within songs are the most satisfying of the band's run. Songs like "Is It Honest?," "Back to the Stone," "Lily," and "Impossible Sky" carry soft twists and turns that caught me off guard, while the harsher sounds in the "Bend Beyond," "Find Them Empty," and "Size Meets the Sound" keep the album from ever settling into a single mood.
This is a satisfying pop/rock album full of memorable songs and hooks - you'd be hard pressed to find an album that's easier to listen to.
'Bend Beyond' just may be Woods' most completely satisfying album from beginning to end, although it took me a while to get around to finally purchasing it, as I wasn't too thrilled with the lack of songs on the plus side of three minutes. I'm a big fan of the bands' noodling jams, so when I noticed the rather meager track times, I was a bit bummed out about it.
Well, I need not have worried. My apprehensions were immediately put to ease when, 90 seconds into the insanely catchy and melodic title track that opens the album, the band proceeded to send me off to innerspace for nearly three minutes, which actually felt a lot longer (in a good way), as it's stuffed with at least three or four songs worth of blissed-out jams, jams that even the Grateful Dead would be jealous of. I imagine this song is pretty amazing live.
Unfortunately, that's the only track that really stretches out, but the rest of the album is filled with such infectious, jangly folk-rock melodies that I hardly noticed. Whereas earlier Woods' albums were front-loaded with the most immediately accessible tracks, 'Bend Beyond' maintains its irresistible hooks from beginning to end, resulting in their most pop-friendly album to date--not a bad thing in their case--with some higher fidelity sound to boot.
"It Ain't Easy" is one of their best, most beautiful straight-up folk songs, imo, while "Impossible Sky"s "Sweet Jane"-style riff and gorgeous harmonies--while deceptively simple upon first blush--has turned into one of my favorite tracks of the year by any band, with its background curlique guitar melody and soaring chorus endlessly playing over and over in my brain the past few days. It'd reached the point where I had to get up in the middle of the night while trying to sleep, in order to figure it out on the guitar so that I could exorcise the demon and get some sleep, which hasn't happened since...well...last year's "Pushing Onlys" by this very same band.
'Bend Beyond' is, without a doubt, one of my favorite albums of the year so far, in any genre. As impressive and absorbing as I found their previous albums to be, I've never been more excited about this band and its future. Here's hoping they receive some overdue exposure soon, for as much as I love having my own "personal bands," I want these guys to continue making music for many years to come. I could not imagine what the last couple years of my music-listening life would have been like these past few years had I never discovered Woods. But I'm just glad I did.
And if you're just now checking them out, you just may find that, years from now, you'll be thinking the same exact thing.
on April 15, 2014
I'm just listening to the new Woods album and went to check out the thoughts on this one and am shocked there were only 3 reviews. This album has the best 1-2-3-4 punch on album since Roxy Music (although they are not similar). I would also put Is it Honest? up for single of the year as well. Don't hesitate to buy this, it's got something for almost anyone.
The opener, Bend Beyond, is sort of like a Neil Young jam with an explosive chorus, psychedelic build and some very hot guitar work in the jam. It's also got a very satisfying departure and return that gives the jam structure.
Cali in a Cup is a nice little pop ditty, shows off the falsetto crazyness that is really unique.
Is it Honest? is really a straightforward, perfect song. Great lick, catchy like nobody's business chorus that varies slightly and builds like XTC does without you really even noticing it, and the bridge may be my favorite 30 seconds of music period.
I could go on, but these 3 songs (or really any one of them) are worth the purchase price. Also, don't miss Impossible Sky, it's unique and brilliant. Why doesn't everyone own this?