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Woods- At Echo Lake
August 25, 2010, 1:36 pm
Filed under: music and musings

Woods

At Echo Lake

Woodsist

In May of 2010, Woods released their fifth full-length album and I couldn’t take the time on it to really see it for what it is until now. One might listen to Woods and feel that there’s nowhere to really go from here when the key factor is Jeremy Earl’s vocals, but I found a serenity in this album that was not present in Songs of Shame.

Songs of Shame was at war with itself, struggling with political anthems and daunting, dark solos countered by acoustic guitar and mellow vocals. Woods seem to have come to peace with the struggles and shadows that overwhelmed their first album. At Echo Lake is lighter, more thought out and precise in it’s stylization and methods of instrumentation. Neither is better, both are extremely amazing pieces of work, but the growth that can be seen from one to the other is what makes Woods such great artists.

They say so themselves in the glinting tune, “Suffering Season,” where they sing, “who knows what tomorrow might bring…” as they ooh along.  The song has such depth but also an airiness that allows them to sing such hopeful (or chilling) phrases as this. Each song has a clarity and an uplifting drive; glimpses of maturity and strength, clarity and purpose in their music that has only increased with time.

There is much more of a country-twang present on this record, showing a clear progression in Woods’ style, leading them down the path of country-inspired lo-fi indie rock that’s still infused with their winding jammy guitar style. Take for instance the song, “Just Fine,” which starts with acoustic guitar and rattling snare as Jeremy Earl’s vocals ring in a somewhat Americana style of melody.  “Death Rattles,” feels very much like it could have been on the previous record with low bass and “oooh’s and “woah’s,” but it has more of an angle to it, feels a little cleaner, even in it’s placement and use of guitar solos. Woods still has plenty of major jam sessions, blaring build ups of weird noise and anthemic acoustic songs, but the poignancy and intent is much more noticeable on At Echo Lake.

by Lauren Piper



Broken Social Scene- Forgiveness Rock Record
August 15, 2010, 3:05 pm
Filed under: music and musings

Broken Social Scene

Forgiveness Rock Record

Arts & Crafts

When this album was released, it was pretty hard to know what to expect. It has been years since their self-titled album was released, and they’ve all been doing side projects in the meantime. The question was, “do they still have it?” and also, “do I still want it?”

Broken Social Scene can sometimes be overindulgent, but in the way that they know exactly how to indulge and how to play to human emotions with their music (ie: soft cooing vocals, and just the right amount of jangle-y guitar before a breakdown). It’s hard to not feel tricked sometimes, like they’ve just got it down to a science and aren’t really creating so much as selling something they know we want.

Forgiveness Rock Record proved me wrong, it disproved my cynicism and my fear of being let down by music that’s so consistently good, and gave me a kick in the ass in terms of reading too far into the way music is made sometimes. Their warm guitar tones and lulling vocals, absurdist lyrics and unbelievable build-ups all remain and are as breathtaking as ever. This album is full in so many aspects, reaching all over the spectrum in terms of styles and influences, but it still sounds like them. What is different this time is the energy; there’s a laid back style which allows for elements to slip through that may have been there before but were never noticed.

The first song on the album “World Sick,” reels the listener in with low drums and high pitched guitar gleans that become winding and catchy. The lyrics are remarkable in the concept of “world sick” to the point of awe. So yeah, it’s Broken Social Scene, but it feels new, not overdone, not tired. When the Kevin Drew’s vocals come in on the first song, they sell the entire album. One needs to remind themself that there is more to come can’t be sold too soon, but they just keep them coming, one giant gooey glob of engulfing tune after another.

Forgiveness Rock Record feels like a journey. Maybe because I listened to it on a bus, or maybe because every song is a different piece of time, a different section of the earth, a new element of sound. They explore the shapes of their sound with instruments, transforming glockenspiel into diamonds and wind instruments into circles with their whimsical nature.

Maintaining their use of strange lyrics and funny phrasing, the song “Texaco Bitches,” bleeds like a teenage anthem out of the speakers. There are upbeat casiotone bleeps and jumpy drums keeping a clunky, excited energy about it in a way that it sometimes feels only Canadian bands can do. They do all this but maintain the original form of Broken Social Scene, they don’t lose their style and their ambition but they add bird noises and ambience, heavy electronic synth elements, broken down harmonies and fucked up auto-tune. These aspects aren’t even new, just reborn.

There can’t be any name-dropping because after you listen to it once, any references to other bands fall apart beneath the heavy, influential lull that is this album. It feels narcotic and smooth, organic and distinctive but no bands can be named; they get swallowed up and spit out in an almost unrecognizable form unless you scrutinize to the point of un-enjoyment, and what is the fun in that?

The band works in strings, horns, tribal drums and robot vocals in a way that fits perfectly in their baroque puzzle-piece style. The slippery, electronic induced tune, “All to all” cleverly uses the words “all to all” to sing “all to all ultimatum.” Broken Social seems to test our intelligence with their music, building it up to be larger than life but breaking it down in this album, freeze-framing elements of beauty or strangeness, giving more than they have to in a 14-song album. I do feel like this is a forgiveness rock record, and I hope that every other band forgives them for rocking so damn hard.

-Lauren Piper