on 14 April 2014
Whether you know it or not, everyone’s got a favourite Woods style. Be that when they’re at their most scuffed and muffled, knocking out dreamy psyche-folk or freaky falsettos, maybe even when they get lengthy and ramble out the jams. Their most popular incarnation though, and for good reason, would seem to be circa their gorgeous LP At Echo Lake on which strong 60s melodies were favoured above meandering asides.
It’s a similar Woods that we meet today on With Light And With Love – only now with added pedal steel. The chilled opener combines it with barroom piano and strangled vocal FX for an inevitably jaunty vibe, the acoustic-steel interplay on the smart “Full Moon” resulting in another fragile and understated masterpiece. Newer to the mix, “Moving To The Left” and “Leaves Like Glass” bubble, shuffle and wheeze along like Yoshimi-era Flaming Lips, a dash of Theremin and wah-wah funk here, super-standout melodies there.
The band’s ability to drop new directions into their signature sound is one of the reasons they remain one of the most consistent around, their wisdom to anchor these experiments with tried-and-tested formulae equally successful. Those looking for a trademark Woods jam will hence find one in the title track. It’s nine minutes of rickety guitar and rhythms punctuated by Jeremy Earl’s musings on love and loss and naturally it rules. So too do the boys have a stripped-back exercise in creepy campfire acoustics to fall back on in the shape of the closer, which is psyched out from a distance with gnarly licks.
It’s a good job too because, sadly, With Light And Love is also padded out with four tasteful-but-forgettable cuts, which even in comparison to say, bassist Kevin Morby’s really rather tidy solo LP from last year, seem to be lacking in identity. As mentioned though, it won’t be for these four tracks that the album is remembered however. Its stellar highlights manage to cast them firmly into the shade. So despite With Light And Love perhaps not being a vintage Woods album, it is definitely another winning chapter in their on-going residency as one of the most essential outfits out there.
Best tracks: “Leaves Like Glass” and “Full Moon”.