May 13, 2010
Woods | At Echo Lake
At Echo Lake
2010 | Woodsist
It’s been a little over a year since Woods released their last album, 2009’s well-received Songs of Shame, a record of lo-fi folk that garnered the group some pretty significant attention and made them standouts among the rest of the fuzz-heavy Woodsist family (e.g. Wavves, Vivian Girls, et al.). Still, Woods has wasted no time following up Songs of Shame. Their fifth record, At Echo Lake, bears many similarities to the group’s previous releases (not that that’s necessarily a bad thing), but also finds them toying with their rustic-Brooklyn sound.
“Blood Dries Darker” kicks off the record with a sunny guitar lick and a distant tom-and-snare beat that’s right out of 1960’s San Francisco, before floating into an acoustic melody that would make Crosby, Stills, & Nash jealous. “Suffering Season,” one of the record’s highlights, sways effortlessly and cheerily, balancing James Earl’s fuzzed-out vocals and an overdriven electric guitar with steady acoustic strumming and crisp background chimes. “Who knows what tomorrow might bring?” Earl sings, his Neil Young-like falsetto still strong under the heavy bedroom production.
It’s songs like these that show Woods undoubtedly growing as musicians and songwriters. The melodies on At Echo Lake are infectious and never hard to distinguish amidst the wide range of instruments and noises that fade in and out of every song throughout the album. “Time Fading Lines” is, for the most part, hauntingly clean and open, but sporadically the song swells with clatter —“As the hours let go / Time fading lines creep into control” sings Earl, his voice stoic, as the drums grow and a wail of feedback crawls out of nowhere.
Still, there’s a heavy chunk of At Echo Lake that takes heavily not just from ’60s folk acts, but from psychedelic groups. Instead of cramming everything into one track a la Songs of Shame’s nine-minute prog-rock jam “September With Pete,” Woods spreads out the acid-washed guitars—and even a few sitars—a bit more evenly on At Echo Lake. The instrumental “From The Horn” sounds like it could easily be an early Pink Floyd outtake, and “Mornin’ Time” starts out simply before ending in an almost explosive din of trippy static. While this does work at times, adding an interesting layer to At Echo Lake, it backfires at times, feeling overwhelming and out of place, perhaps most notably on the off-pitch “Deep.”
As a whole, At Echo Lake seems to lack cohesiveness. The album’s opening four songs work wonderfully together, but afterwards the record seems a tad jumpy. This, of course, shouldn’t take away from the fact that At Echo Lake is an apt and pleasant follow up to the last album. While their experimenting costs them a bit every now and then, Woods maintains and, in certain moments, improves on its unique blend of lo-fi folk.
by Jon Blistein