I suppose it should come as no surprise to anyone familiar with the band that the new Woods album is great. After all, they’ve developed a reputation for both consistency and exceptional songwriting. With more full length albums than you can count on one hand, they haven’t released a dog yet. Perhaps more surprising then, in light of their exceptional back catalog, is that their latest release, With Love and With Light, is their best album to date.
Everything here is sharper, tighter and more refined than anything they’ve previously released: the production, the songwriting, the recording, and the band’s performances. And, best of all, they’ve managed these improvements without sacrificing any of the things that made them unique in the first place. Woods still demonstrate an unmistakable affinity for off-kilter melodies, psych-folk experimentation, and woozy open-road jamming.
For example, the album opens with the springy alt-country jam “Shepherd.” It’s constructed from warm slide guitar (courtesy of Mr. Presley), bright honky tonk piano, and a gently strummed acoustic guitar line. It’s upbeat and opens the album with a swaying easiness. Compare that to the title track, a 9-minute long epic, that unravels from verse to verse into a series of extended free-wheeling instrumentals of snarling guitar riffs, shuffling percussion, and wide-open spaces. It may sound unnecessarily indulgent, but I assure you it’s anything but. In fact, it sounds sharp, muscular, and mesmerizingly focused. It’s a song that you can get completely lost in. And, of course, they follow it up with their cleanest, most pop-affected track yet, “Moving To The Left.”
With Love and With Light also features contributions from several of their friends. For example, White Fence’s Tim Presley and Foxygen’s Jonathan Rado each appear on a pair of tracks. Nonetheless, the best bits are 100% Woods (singer/guitarist Jeremy Earl, multi-instrumentalist Jarvis Taveniere, drummer Aaron Neveu, and pianist/organist John Andrews) simply being themselves and doing what they do best.
This is my choice for a Musical Pairing for Kasey’s recipe for Shakshuka. Combining harissa paste, bell peppers, garlic, cumin, tomatoes, and eggs, the recipe – like the album – is earthy, fiery, and savory. It’s a versatile recipe that you could enjoy for either breakfast or dinner. Likewise, With Light and With Love is one of those albums that’s perfect for a long commute, a lazy afternoon, or day in the office. You can score this on vinyl, cassette, or CD from Insound.