What happens when you mash a bunch of multi-instrumentalists together? Easy, you get Woods. Hailing from Brooklyn, Woods consists of some of the best musicians in the business; Jeremy Earl at the vocal helm, Aaron Nevru on drums, Chuck Van Dyck on bass, the formidable Kyle Forester on keyboards and sax and Jarvis Taveniere on pretty much any other instrument that you can think of. Since their formation in 2005, they have released 11 albums including their new release Strange to Explain. The carefully concocted album showcases the band’s talent. While their sound has evolved over the years, it hasn’t stopped them from knowing their limits and making another ear worm of an album.
Woods sets a steady pace at the start of “Fell So Hard,” driving straight towards a melody that I haven’t been able to get out of my head. It grabbed my attention on the first listen and hasn’t let up since. It’s slightly funky, a little bit indie, and most of all psychedelic. Forester’s glimmering keyboard line throughout the verse is hypnotic and is broken by a mellow chorus. The driving rhythm continues, building to a downplayed exposition that sounds like a well-refined jam band. They take their time with their instrumental section, allowing it to evolve with the potential to go in any direction. While this part is simple, it builds expectations only to be broken again by Earl’s dreamy vocals.
“Can’t Get Out” is just as catchy. While other tracks on the album are bright and clear, Woods combines a fuzzy bassline and bright synths that seem pedestrian at first but again, like “Fell So Hard” the song contains a melody that is difficult to forget. Earl’s vocals during the chorus are rousing and cathartic. And for good reason. The track is about escape and the inability to escape, which seems quite fitting at the moment but Earl’s vocals seem to level out the somewhat claustrophobic lyrics. It is a mix of haze and brightness that ends with wild keyboard notes and a chorus of spoken words voices that bring the listener’s mind from insular lyrics to the outside world.
It seems that Woods is a very introspective band and “Where Do You Go When You Dream” delves into the world of dreams. It pokes and prods at the idea of dreams as a world to escape to. Dreams are personal and taking up this topic within their music and being able to deal with it well is a testament to the band’s maturity and understanding of each other. They use this understanding to create a track that, just like dreams, is a little bit hazy but doesn’t lack direction, always driving forward.
What strikes me most about Strange to Explain is how refined it is. Every note seems to be perfectly placed and played. Each track is curated into an album that is both catchy, without being kitsch, giving it the feel of a potential classic album. Strange to Explain is thoughtful, warm and unpretentious, a mellow album that grows over time.