With Light and With Love
Five albums in and not much has changed with Wood’s music, at least on the surface. The band still has that lo-fi Americana, stoner groove that people (including myself) first fell in love with five years ago with Songs of Shame, but upon closer inspection, their latest release With Light and With Love reveals the band’s immense growth as both musicians and songwriters.
Back in the beginning, the band was best known and appreciated for its lo-fi production and ramshackle performances. Wood’s sloppiness also served as its strength – a band whose recordings often sounded like live performances captured on an old, dusty tape recorder buried in the couch cushions next to a long forgotten joint.
That jam-band, free-for-all aesthetic remains intact, but the group has also learned over the years how to refine their creative process. 2012’s Bend Beyond hinted toward a step into stronger production; With Light and With Love is the band diving headfirst into a full-fledged studio. The songs sound crisper, cleaner, and more purposeful than ever. They’ve washed away the murkiness in favor for more clarity in their songs. Despite this abandonment of the lo-fi ethos, the album still swells with an airy warmth that hearkens back to classic Neil Young albums of the early 70s.
In the past, the band’s songwriting also grew out of the 70s era, but With Light and With Love shows them exploring the psychedelic environs of the 60s. The title track starts off with an Indian guitar riff that would make Ravi Shanker proud and then spirals fluidly into a spacey blend of loose, instinctive drum fills and Ray Mazarik inspired organs. Other Beatle innovations pop up on tracks like “New Light,” relying heavily on the Fab Four’s penchant for backward masking, and “Moving to the Left,” using a Leslie Speaker to make Jeremy Earl’s vocals even trippier. Listening to the album is like a game of seven degrees of the 60s: the swirling guitar solo on “Twin Steps” is vintage Hendrix, the slide guitar styling’s of “Full Moon” are pure George Harrison, and the organs on “Leaves Like Glass” are torn straight from Blonde On Blonde, a theft that I’m totally cool with.
“Leaves Like Glass”:
Beneath all of this 60s nostalgia and free-flowing improvisation, the band’s true intentions with this album is found. Yes, Woods will always be a DIY, freak-folk collective of open-minded experimentation, but many of the songs on With Light and With Love hint towards a more mainstream sound. It’s clear that Woods are trying to build their base. This ambition is best seen on “Moving to the Left,” an instantly memorable, sun-shiney pop song that has already earned placement on my list as the song of the summer. I will always love those early Woods albums and all their lo-fi foibles, and I don’t know if I’m ready to share such real, honest music with the masses. Then again, if more people listened to Woods, the world would be a much warmer place.
“Moving to the Left”: