Woods Can't See the Forest for the Trees on 'Strange to Explain'

BY Eric HillPublished May 21, 2020

After a few passes through Woods' eleventh album it's clear that Strange to Explain is an album that lives in its details. Three years since the sunshine-falls-on-everything sound of Love Is Love, the Brooklyn band have embraced fatherhood and played on David Berman's Purple Mountains project (sadly his swan song). Some of those real-life events find their way into Jeremy Earl's lyrics, but the production gives it such a spit shine that you barely notice.

On tracks like "Where Do You Go When You Dream" and "Can't Get Out," as each line passes there is a new keyboard warble, a new shaker rhythm, a new synth swell that stratifies in the mix.

The problem is that Woods' strength usually lies in the way all their moving parts feed into an organic whole rather than calling attention to themselves. Instead of people in a room playing guitars and drums and singing into real space, here you can almost feel the sliders sliding and new stereo tracks clicking open on the computer.

It's a problem faced by many bands who've moved from the grit of lo-fi roots into the polish of digital-era tools — and though Woods have weathered the process gradually and mostly successfully, this album feels like they need to take another walk in the trees to reconnect with their namesake.

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