'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.