Woods charm with Bend Beyond
Bend Beyond is the fifth studio release by the Brooklyn indie folk band, Woods, and provides half an hour of decidedly charming melodies that reek of a 60’s nostalgia, which undoubtedly endears its listener in union with the melancholy tone of its vocals and the striking frankness of its lyricism.
The title track and first song of the album, Bend Beyond, is an amalgamation of down-tempo folk melody driven by its fair share of bluesy licks, intertwined with Jeremy Earl’s falsetto, which exudes a certain naivety and breed of penetrative sadness, reminiscent of voices such as Elliott Smith, such that one can’t help but develop a predilection for its quality. I am also one to usually find falsetto such a relentlessly irritating sound, although Earl’s voice is set apart in such a way for its candor and clarity that it becomes entirely mesmerising and doesn’t frustrate in the manner that I usually find from such a vocal endeavour… suck it, Bon Iver.
It becomes abundantly clear early within this track and those to follow, that what sets this album apart from previous ventures from Woods, who boast an extensive repertoire of EPs and shorter studio recordings, and gains new ground for their music is the sheer quality of production and the refining of their musical experimentation, for which they have become renowned and referred to in the fashion of 60’s greats such as the Grateful Dead. While the complexity of the music itself does not vary so much and adheres to a folk simplicity, the true genius of this album is found in the layering of various tracks, sound effects and distortion, which achieves an impressive intricacy and rewarding listening experience.
Cali in a Cup is the second track and apparently the most propagated single from the album, which is unsurprising as it is ultimately a great display of Woods’ aptitude for the creation of pop that surpasses expectation. It is marked by a lighthearted drumbeat and arresting vocal harmonies, with some harmonica thrown in the mix (how could they possibly resist?). Cali in a Cup is a track wholly evocative of the Shins circa their 2001 Oh, Inverted World and I find it is entirely appealing for that reason.
However, as is the issue with most folk albums of its generation, Bend Beyond, for all its subtleties, lacks any particular variation of tone or approach with each track and all seem to melt into one another. Save for Cascade, which is a two-minute long instrumental track of intensely clever layering, guitar that is played in such a way as to draw the listener in to an intoxicating whirlwind of sitar-like dreamscape and sampling of various sounds, one of which, one could only assume to be the sound of a Hookah pipe being smoked. Although, it can only be assumed that Woods made the conscious decision to place this track in the centre of the album in order to allow the listener a brief saunter into an experience that doesn’t sound entirely like the rest of the album – I mean, you can describe Bend Beyond as easy listening in the sense that it seems you are listening to the same song eleven times over; then again, it is a really good song and I recommend the album nonetheless.
Review by Elfy Scott