Woods’ Sun and Shade is the band’s sixth studio album in just as many years. Producing an album every year is no small feat, but sometimes a little more time for fine-tuning and experimentation helps flesh out a record.
This is particularly true for Sun and Shade, where a little more gestation time could’ve turned a good album into a great one. While S&S contains glimpses of promise, (namely their more daring sound experiments and overall genuine enthusiasm), most of the record ends up being slightly predictable (if still very solidly constructed), psychedelic freak folk.
There are a few unique elements at play in Woods’ lo-fi dynamic, the most interesting (and possibly most divisive) of which is singer Jeremy Earl’s voice.
Either whispering or yelping and harboring an occasional country twang, Earl’s voice manages to give a somewhat standard psychedelic folk sound a lot of character. There’s something in his voice that is very fragile and very honest that really brings a lot more power to the band’s music.
Songs like album-opener “Pushing Onlys” and the psychedelic “To Have In the Home” that choose to capitalize on Earl’s voice end up being Sun and Shade’s biggest highlights.
Conversely, the album’s two longer instrumental tracks, the hypnotic “Out of the Eye” and the 10-minute desert crawl “Sol y Sombra,” wind up feeling a little slow without Earl’s voice present to reel in the listener. They’re still technically sound tracks that show off what the band can do with their instruments, but they wind up dragging a bit compared to other songs on the album.
Overall, Woods’ instrumentation feels pretty standard for a folk band, and most of Sun and Shade’s songs develop a rather rigid pattern that never really surprises the listener in any remarkable way. Songs like “Pushing Onlys” (which features a horn section to great effect) or “White Out” (whose rolling bassline and summery guitars are a welcome change of pace) challenge this predictability, but surprises are kept to a minimum. Most songs cling to a well-treaded folk sound that doesn’t try very hard to break from the norm.
Despite all that, the band manages to be surprisingly endearing through their honest, relatable lyrics and warming tones that keep the album feeling real.
There’s an intangible sort of truth in Woods’ sound that makes you believe this music comes straight from the heart. It might be a stretch to call the album “powerful,” but it’s definitely cute, and at some points genuinely touching. Because of the likable vocalist and undeniable authenticity and honesty in its sound, Sun and Shade is still an enjoyable album, but one that occasionally plays it a little too safe. If the band chooses to branch out and expand on those few elements that really separate them from the pack, their music has the potential to become really exciting, really innovative stuff. But for now, it’s only okay.
Wood s Sun and Shade Tracklisting:
- “Pushing Onlys”
- “Any Other Day”
- “Be All Be Easy
- “Out of the Eye”
- “Hand It Out”
- “To Have in the Home”
- “Sol y Sombra”
- “Wouldn’t Waste”
- “Who Do I Think I Am?”
- “What Faces the Sheet”
- “White Out”
- “Say Goodbye”