From humble lo-fi beginnings, Woods has become one of the most beloved names in modern folk rock. Increasingly ambitious albums have captured the maturation of a band that has grown dramatically in stylistic experimentation and technical skill. Throughout this evolution, their main constant has been the highly distinctive nasal vocals of Jeremy Earl. His record label, Woodsist, has released all of the band’s ten records, beginning with 2005’s How To Survive + In The Woods.
Earl’s singing voice grounds Woods’ music solidly in the country and folk traditions, though the versatile band — now consisting of Earl, Jarvis Taveniere, Aaron Neveu, Chuck Van Dyck, and Kyle Forester — has strayed into pop, psychedelia, soul, funk, and jam band stylings. A favorite, “Can’t See At All” off of 2016’s City Sun Eater in the River of Light, is a rare example of a melancholy funk song. And their range appears to be expanding further: “Spring Is In The Air” leans heavily on jazz inflections, while “Hit The Drum” verges on something like gospel. Both of the latter tracks appear on Woods’ latest, Love Is Love. That album is a direct reaction to the seismic 2016 election and the collective horror that followed. A certain admixture of anger and despair resonate throughout, along with calls to strengthen the bonds of love — very much in line with the national mood.
Features ranging from brash horns, wheezing keys, Latin percussion, thoughtful acoustic guitar, and distorted solos have peppered Woods songs over the course of their career. Their lyrics are thoughtful and heartfelt, often revolving around the perennially popular themes of nature and love. The subjects are familiar, but Woods’ interpretations of them are never trite. Woods can sound alternately like Calexico, Devendra Banhart, Dr. Dog, Real Estate, or some melange of the above. Countless talented bands have taken up the mantle of folk rock in the 21st century, but Woods is a standout act even amidst these esteemed performers.
Golden Daze, meanwhile, is a much newer band that seems to have sculpted a singular and well-defined sound right out of the gate. They’re heavily in the camp of the gauzy late-summer psychedelic rock that’s seen a revival as of late. Their gorgeous self-titled debut album, out on Aquarium Drunkard’s Autumn Tone Records, is studded with plodding wall-of-sound tracks soaked in reverb and dreamlike ambience. The songwriting pair of Ben Schwab and Jacob Loeb suspend their high vocals and harmonies above washes of clean-tone guitar, hovering in the mix to great effect. Golden Daze is a deeply moving album — it seems like it must have been playing during the summers of your youth, even though its 2016 release obviously precludes that. There’s a sort of timelessness to it — a sound that can be traced back to the Beach Boys, instantly nostalgia-forming. The Golden Daze set list will be an excellent warm-up for the similarly affective music of Woods, who are headlining the Chapel on Sunday. This is a show worth seeing — two of the most engaging bands working today, together in an intimate venue.
Woods, Golden Daze
May 21, 2017