The A.V. Club reviews a lot of records every week, but some things still slip through the cracks. Stuff We Missed looks back at notable releases from this year that we didn't review at their time of release.
Brooklyn band Woods is cleaning up its act. As Bend Beyond, the title of the group’s seventh album, suggests, Woods songwriter Jeremy Earl and multi-instrumentalist Jarvis Taveniere have stepped out of their lo-fi comfort zone and gone for tighter and more holistic arrangements. Following 2011’s Sun And Shade, Earl is still dealing with loneliness, describing an ascetic rural existence in upstate New York. Luckily, he’s now softening those sometimes-downer sentiments with earworm-worthy melodies.
Before the release of Bend Beyond, Earl and Taveniere talked to Pitchfork about going into the sessions with plans to eschew the spontaneity of their early work. The band has found a sweet spot somewhere between the not-too-polished Americana of early-’70s studio Grateful Dead and the experimental Krautrock of bands like Can or Neu! A pair of mid-album songs in particular reveal the latter camp’s influence: “Cascade” is a spacey white-noise freak-out, while “Back To The Stone” manages to hang on a discordant minor chord and have one of the album’s catchiest choruses.
Ultimately, the songs that hit hardest are Earl’s meditations on his father’s death. “It gets hard without much to say / I piled stones in lieu of your grave,” he sings in a strained falsetto on “It Ain’t Easy.” Here, acoustic guitars serve as fragile, rhythmic pattern generators, and Woods works well to find the right space for each instrument, maintaining the balance between accuracy and capriciousness that continues to define the band.