Woods may hail from Brooklyn, but their music, and seventh album Bend Beyond in particular, has California written all over it. It’s, on the surface at least, a continuation of the aesthetic the band has espoused all along, namely 1960s sunshine pop and warm, fuzzy `90s-style lo-fi. It’s only fitting that Woods embrace this image, then, considering the band puts on the Woodsist Festival that takes place every summer in Big Sur.
Don’t let the bright and colorful sounds that pervade this album fool you. Much like what Passion Pit did earlier this summer with the excellent Gossamer, this album is filled with tragedy and dark themes all over. Upon first listen, that may not be readily apparent, but when one dives deeper into Jeremy Earl’s lyrics, the picture grows clearer, particularly now that the band has removed some of the noise filter. However, even though some dark feelings come through, they can be a bit abstract. In “It Ain’t Easy,” Earl sings, “Ain’t it hard to say it ain’t easy?“, conveying a sense of difficulty and reluctance to face it that one encounters in a situation. And he follows up with his solution as he continues, “Looking for different ways to make things stay the same.” The same sentiment is echoed in “Is It Honest?” as Earl honestly explains how sometimes things are “fucking hard,” paralleled with a line that states “how blood drips from the bones.”
Even though there are these dark tones that permeate the songwriting, there’s a strange, haunting beauty that is also prevalent. It’s hard to deny the appeal that each song has considering its uncomfortable content. “Lily” has a strange, ghostly beauty attached to it, and on the opposite side of the emotional spectrum, “Impossible Skys” provides the only optimism this album really contains.
Those familiar with Woods shouldn’t be surprised with the increasing level of seriousness in their music. This isn’t just an indie rock band anymore. Bend Beyond is proof that there’s still an affecting melancholic splendor to indie rock, even if it means exploring the darkest corners of the soul.
Stream: Woods – “Size Meets the Sound”