Woods: Strange to Explain [More Strange (Deluxe Edition)] (Woodsist) | Under the Radar Magazine Under the Radar | Music Blog for the Indie Music Magazine
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Strange to Explain [More Strange (Deluxe Edition)]


Sep 20, 2021 Web Exclusive Bookmark and Share

Let’s get the lore out of the way: The departure of bassist Kevin Morby for a solo career in 2013 saw Woods’ sound undergo massive changes. Gone was the über lo-fi freak folk that sometimes extended into some soul crushing songs (see “Rain On” for more). Now they were tighter, cleaner, and more pop friendly. The results of this shift in sound have been, for the most part, positive. With Light and With Love explored Neil Young influenced folk and progressive jams alike. City Sun Eater in the River of Light fused African and Latin influences into their sound to make a really interesting pop album. Even their collaborative work with Swedish psych rock band Dungen yielded “Turn Around,” perhaps their tightest genre fusion to date. The only real stinker in their catalogue is 2017’s Love is Love, a trite response to Donald Trump’s election to the presidency that reflects the worst of the shallow faux liberalism that pervaded mainstream media at the time.

Strange to Explain contains nary a political statement. Instead, its ambitions are more personal. In the time between Love is Love and this album, vocalist Jeremy Earl became a father and suffered the death of Silver Jews founder David Berman. Earl and bandmate Jarvis Taveniere were producing what turned out to be Berman’s final album at the time of his death.

Musically, Strange to Explain is far less guitar heavy than previous woods albums, a conscious decision to incorporate more piano that results in a lighter, relaxing listen. This is exemplified on the title track, where piano and acoustic guitar interact to form the rhythmic meat of the song before being joined by a light synth line in the chorus that rides atop Earl’s falsetto (Earl’s falsetto “ooh’s” are still the indie-folk equivalent of Kid Cudi’s humming). It creates one of the prettiest sounding songs on the record. “Where Do You Go When You Dream,” where Earl sings on the chorus “I see old friends when I sleep/Where do you go when you dream,” incorporates a jangly synth line into one of the tightest songs the band has ever written. In contrast, “Can’t Get Out,” which details the paralyzing effects of anxiety, can’t overcome a clunky chorus and messy mishmash of instrumentation, standing out as the albums weakest song.

The More Strange (Deluxe Edition) expansion provides four new tracks and an alternate version of “Be There Still.” The original is one of the most beautiful songs on the record: a low-key nylon-stringed acoustic guitar ballad that sounds like it was written about Earl’s newborn daughter. The alternate version strips it back further for a simplistic sound that really does the song justice. The new material features a return to guitar-driven instrumentation that harkens back to their mid-2010s stuff. However, it still fits it really nicely with the rest of the album. “Nickels and Dimes” is my favorite of the bonus tracks: a breezy song with a nice groove and anthemic chorus.

Listening to Strange to Explain is reminiscent of listening to the newest Fleet Foxes album, Shore. Neither are likely to be considered the best album from either artist (a good argument could even be made that Shore is Fleet Foxes’ worst), but both are comforting listens front to back. And after the events of the past year and a half, comfort is a gift. (www.woodsist.com/woods/)

Author rating: 7/10

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Average reader rating: 6/10


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