Sun and Shade

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On Woods' fifth album in five years, the duo of Jeremy Earl and Jarvis Taveniere keep getting better and better. Their 2010 record At Echo Lake refined their sound, cleaning it up a bit, focusing the songwriting, and delivering equally exciting pop and noise thrills. On Sun and Shade, they go a step further to the point of actually being mid-fi, instead of resolutely lo-fi. There’s a clarity and strength in the sound that they’ve never had before and when matched with songs that sound like lost folk-rock classics, it makes for a very impressive record. The clearer sound makes Jeremy Earl's vocal the focal point and he’s up to the task, sounding more confident than ever and hitting notes he may have just missed in the past. On a song like the opening "Pushing Onlys," he has a poignant grace you might not have expected. Plus, the track sounds like a Beau Brummels demo, which is kind of amazing. In fact, most of the record sounds like the Brummels or the Byrds or the countless garage bands who worked a jangly ballad into their set list after folk-rock began to bloom. Not a rehash though, more a continuation of the sound of jangling guitars matched with plaintive vocals and melancholy emotions. It’s a timeless formula, and Woods work it to a simple, noise-y perfection on Sun and Shade. Especially on the lilting “Any Other Day” or “Hand It Out.” The duo also indulges in some quietly folky moments (“Wouldn’t Waste"), a little bit of folk-pop (“What Faces the Sheet”), and laid-back neo-pysch (“White Out”) along the way. Spliced in among the short songs are a couple epic-length songs. The first, “Out of the Eye,” is a propulsive and hypnotic Krautrock-inspired track featuring longtime contributor G Lucas Crane on tapes; the second, “Sol y Sombra,” is a drifting bongo and triangle-style hippie jam that brings the energy level way down but also casts a pleasing spell at the same time. These songs work to balance the record, providing a drawn-out contrast to the sharp, sweet pop songs. Basically, Woods have put it all together on Sun and Shade, matching inspiration with performance and crafting their best record yet, one that will stand with the great folk-psych albums of the past 40 years, from the Notorious Byrd Brothers to the Rain Parade's Emergency Third Rail Power Trip to Either/Or to now.

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