Archive for Jeremy Earl

Woods’ “With Light And Love” Bends Just Slightly Beyond Their Prior Masterpiece

Posted in Music with tags , , on April 16, 2014 by johnbuckley100

Last time out, in 2012, Woods’ Bend Beyond shocked the Western world when it beat out Ty Segall to take Tulip Frenzy’s Album of the Year honors.  Maybe their amazing show at DC’s Red Palace helped sway the judges.  But as we noted then, Bend Beyond was one of those mythical Perfect Albums, as rare as a pitcher’s Perfect Game, with an astonishing sound and not a note out of place.

We saw them again in the summer of 2013, and they gave hints at what a good album With Light And Love, released this week, would turn out to be.  It is a bright, confident follow up to a masterpiece, and there is no let down, no disappointment.  Does that automatically make it, too, a masterpiece?  Not necessarily, though it means we have come to expect the extraordinary with Woods, and they seem perfectly at ease in delivering it.

With Aaron Neveu now a full-fledged member of the band, and we presume that’s Kevin Morby on bass — their photo on the Woodsist website does not have Morby, whose excellent solo album, Harlem River, was released late last year, but we think that’s him — the twin-guitar sound of Jeremy Earl and Jarvis Tavaniere continues to ply the line between the best Topanga Canyon 12-string chimes and the sonic-rocket-to-the-moon psychedelia for which their lives shows are so notable.  And Jeremy Earl’s voice continues to be a sui generis marvel, causing Robert Plant, Al Green, and the Dean Wareham of Galaxie 500 to all stand back, their mouths agape.

What’s different here is evident from the start, wherein album opener “Shepherd” has a pedal steel and Nicky Hopkins piano sound, a postcard from whatever country locale Woods has arrived in, far out of town and in touch with their Flying Burrito Brothers.  We suppose that Woods — a Brooklyn band that records Upstate — has a shorter distance to travel than Darker My Love did when they veered into chiming ’60s country rock with Alive As You Are ( another Perfect Album that took Tulip Frenzy Album of the Year honors.  And in fact, Tim Presley plays on this ‘un.) The country vibe sure is lovely, but better yet comes the Dylanesque “Leaves Like Glass,” whose instrumentation sounds like the tape was left rolling during the Blonde On Blonde sessions. We would dare anyone to listen to “Twin Steps” and not immediately plan on proceeding, with the missionary zeal of a programmed zombie, to catch this band live.  And while the 9:07 title track sums up this band’s virtuosity and complexity in spades, it’s “Moving To The Left” that harkens, ironically, to the right of the radio dial, where in a perfect world it would remain, being played over and over throughout the summer months.

This doesn’t mean we expect Woods to storm the record charts.  We’re both realistic and at completely at odds with the way hits are manufactured to by this time have hope that a band this fine will be properly rewarded in this lifetime.  We should note, however, that there is not an insurmountable difference between With Light And Love and a Broken Bells record; we could actually imagine a radio programmer listening to “Moving To The Left” and being inspired to do the right thing, his corporate masters notwithstanding.

Perhaps, you say, it is too much to expect that even a band that creates Perfect Albums can rally the masses.  Perhaps we should think of Woods like that restaurateur that has foodies flock from across the globe to eat in his 32-seat epicurean marvel, the strange combination of sea urchins and wholesome grains utterly beguiling, with a smallish but knowing army of disciples certain they’ve discovered something special, even if it would be hard to get everyone to understand.

No, we reject that concept.  Woods are a marvel, worthy of superstardom, and if you’ve yet to understand this, start here, With Light and Love.

And go see them next weekend, with Quilt, at The Rock and Roll Hotel in D.C.

Woods Do-Over On “Be All Easy” Reveals A Welcome Impulse

Posted in Music with tags , , , on July 16, 2013 by johnbuckley100

Yesterday we asked the question of whether, with Bend Beyond, it was possible that Woods had peaked.  It was pure speculation, rumination, based not on evidence but the mathematical logic that when you’ve achieved perfection — and we believe that 2012’s Bend Beyond was, in fact, perfect — the odds tilt in favor of the next one being less so.  Which means a decline.

So when we noticed last night that somehow, escaping our attention, Woods had just a week ago released a new single, and that the A-side was a remake of “Be All Easy” from 2011’s Sun and Shade — an album that was good, but not close to perfect — we avidly downloaded it.  We’ve been listening to both the A-side and to the new “God’s Children.”  Here are some quick observations for Woodsheads, or Woodstocks, or whatever we fanatics may be called.

A do-over is always an interesting development among recording artists.  When Alejandro Escovedo recorded “Guilty” on two successive albums, it was clear — seemed clear — that he felt he hadn’t gotten it right the first time.  But Woods’ redo of “Be All Easy” is notable both for the two-year gap between versions (we assume; we know when it was released, but not necessarily when it was re-recorded), and for the softer, more melodic, increasingly Byrdsy, decreasingly edgy production.  Jeremy Earl and his compadres have made a pretty song gorgeous, and that’s not an impulse you’ll see us reject.

But then there is this: we noticed the other night in Portland that it seemed like Earl was singing some songs with slightly less of a pronounced falsetto.  Go listen to “God’s Children.”  It is sung in an ethereal, high voice.  But falsetto? Not really… It bears the same resemblance to Earl’s typical singing as, say, Dean Wareham’s singing in Luna bore to his singing in Galaxie 500.

I don’t know what this means.  And clearly, were Earl to sing on a new album with a lower-registered voice, it would simultaneously render Woods less distinctive, if less freakish.  Would that be a bad thing?  Not based on the results of “God’s Children.”

UPDATE: See below from Woods’ website.  Also, please note we now have the name of the incredible drummer.  Finally, please note that “God’s Children” Is A Kinks song!  All of the above still stands.

LIMITED TO 1,000 COPIES

The recording of these songs serves as a farewell to Rear House, Woods’ home, recording studio, creative refuge and beloved shithole for ten long years.

“God’s Children” is a classic Kinks tune from the soundtrack to the 1971 British film Percy; “Be All, Be Easy,” originally from 2011’s Sun and Shade, was rerecorded to capture the live form that’s taken shape since its original release. Both are the first to feature new drummer, Aaron Neveu.

Woods Levitates The Roof Off Of DC’s Red Palace

Posted in Music with tags , , , on November 3, 2012 by johnbuckley100

iPhone 5

That Ghostbusters charge of lightning surrounding the Nation’s Capitol last night had nothing to do with the election four days away; it was Woods, who came to the Red Palace on D.C.’s H Street Corridor and levitated the roof off the building.  Sure, they started with their sunshine jangling and fermented ’60s pop, but by the time they left the wind was howling in a psychedelic squall.  But as usual, we get ahead of ourselves.

Let’s start where you must when writing about Brooklyn’s finest, Jeremy Earl’s voice.  On Woods’ records, even the amazing Bend Beyond, which the entire gang at Tulip Frenzy World HQ went kinda nutso over a few weeks back, you keep waiting for Earl to play it straight, to make the transition Dean Wareham made between Galaxie 500 and Luna, when he dropped the falsetto and began singing in something closer to his own real warble.  But when you see Woods live, you realize that Jeremy Earl’s high-pitched voice is a Robert Plant-like freak of nature, an instrument so pure that were he to begin hog calling in Illinois, the Mighty Mississippi would become a solid porcine wave, as every last critter in Iowa harkened eastward.  Some singers need digital help to reach such pitch perfection, but Early barely needs a microphone to lead his kickass colleagues through their animalistic evocation of Byrds and Crazy Horses.

We were blessed with much, if not all, of Bend Beyond, and yep, it’s true that the title track live is like some exhortation.  The transformation of the band, from beginning to end, through its many linked personalities, was like listening to a playlist that begins with Neil Young’s Harvest and ends with Pink Floyd’s “Astronomy Domine.”  Happy we were to stand near the stage as they got to At Echo Lake’s “Blood Dries Darker,” which made us think of Camper Van Beethoven — the only other band we know that can stretch from folk rock to literally playing “Astronomy Domine.”  And from there they went into a song whose name we don’t know, though we will dedicate our life’s remaining days to finding it out, because it stretched for 12, no 15, no 20 minutes of jam-band bliss, until finally things reached such a crescendo that the aforementioned roof did lift off into the night, and the lightning bolts flew, and hovering above all was the answer to the question of whether there is a God, and yes, there is, and He bears a stunning resemblance to Sun Ra in his full glittering robes, his Arkestra surrounding him as squawking angels.  And by that time we were stumbling out into the street, and our grin, the grin on our face, it was wider than the Mississippi.

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