Album: Bend Beyond
Brooklyn based Woods are releasing Bend Beyond their sixth album in as many years. How does that statement make you feel about the band? Do you have more respect for them because they are recordaholics that are constantly working and honing their craft? If you’re like me it raises a lot of red flags about a band that is writing a lot of songs and recording them but not doing a lot of editing. Woody Allen has put out a movie almost every year since the seventies, but only about 1 in 5 are decent, and he hit home runs early on with Annie Hall and Manhattan, and as far as I can tell Woods have not hit any home runs.
The title track “Bend Beyond” starts off the album, and it’s a winner. It starts off slow and easy, but builds to a pretty infectious hook in the chorus. I can only assume that these songs where they’re singing about “bending beyond the light” are about taking drugs, but I can also only assume that they’re not actually big drugs users, it feels too put on. “Cali in a Cup” is the next song on the album and I can already see the pattern happening here with their brand of pyschfolk, only giving hints of fuzzed out guitars while the songs are mostly driven by an acoustic. “Is it Honest” feels like it’s going to go down the same road I’ve heard with a million of these folk rock songs, but it’s actually another winner, because it feels genuine. Not to say the rest of the album is not, it just feels like a very concerted effort to sound like something. “It Ain’t Easy” is a good follow actually to “Is it Honest”, another acoustic ballad, and when the short instrumental “Cascade” hits I’m feeling pretty good about this album effort. The problem is there are still seven more songs left that never really take the album in any other direction. “Back to the Stone” is a nice little ditty, but nothing special. “Find Them Empty” sees the band try some fuzzed out guitars, but it’s still the acoustic that’s driving it, and it just doesn’t take off the way you’d like. You can hear the fuzzed out guitar wanting to wail, but they slowly fade it out and put it back in the mix. “Wind Was the Wine”, “Lily”, “Size Meets Sound” all feel like attempts to rekindle the 70’s without actually bringing anything new to the table. “Impossible Skys” and “Something Surreal” feel tacked on because they were running out of songs.
If Woods had released a 5 song EP, I would have no choice to give it a really high grade, but there are 12 songs on Bend Beyond so I have no choice to give it a lower one. It tells me that Woods are a decent band because they are gaining enough success to record albums every year, especially when I hear songs like “Bend Beyond” but they’re going to have to channel their inner Themla Shoonmaker or Walter Murch (famous film editors) if they want create memorable albums and not just a few memorable songs.
– Michael Unger