Woods: Strange to Explain
Woods has long been a New York band but, for Strange to Explain, the psych rock act’s 11th full-length, the group decamped to California—where co-founder Jarvis Taveniere now resides—to track at the scenic Panoramic House studio in Stinson Beach. The sunshine and general vibes seem to have rubbed off as the band crafted these 11 mellow, dreamy tracks. Frontman Jeremy Earl is in fine form on this, his first Woods album since becoming a dad, with falsetto vocals that seem to float and circle in unusual ways, much like the band’s sauntering grooves. Where jangly guitars have often driven the Woods sound, it’s the keyboard and Mellotron work of John Andrews that stands out, adding warmth and texture, especially on the hooky “Can’t Get Out” and the gorgeous “Strange to Explain.” A handful of songs share the Calexico-esque Tex Mex of 2016’s “Sun City Creeps,” including the soft and subtle “Just to Fall Asleep” and a pair of horn-heavy instrumentals “The Void” and the “Weekend Wind.” Yet, it’s in the softer, mellower moments of Strange to Explain where the band truly shines, such as “Be There Still,” a recording so peaceful and sparse that you can hear birds chirping in the background. For 15 years, Woods has been floating along in its own orbit, bending folkrock beyond the normal (even when collaborating with other artists, like Earl and Taveniere did while shaping David Berman’s Purple Mountains). Strange to Explain may not be as experimental as the band’s early work, but it has its own appeal: It just might be Woods’ loveliest album yet.