Even though Brooklyn lo-fi folkers Woods dispense some of the most assured pop melodies this side of the radio, underneath the hooks always runs an array of primal collages cut and pasted from some missing year of music between the ’60s and ’70s. On Sun and Shade, Woods’ fifth LP in as many years, the band performs their best balancing act yet by resting their wistful melodies on top of a flowing spirituality that pins the album low enough in the sky to provide just enough light to accompany the oncoming darkness.
The tape hiss and low-rent production cast behind singer/guitarist Jeremy Earl’s swallowed falsetto often served as the primary definition of Woods. And while there’s still a sense of DIY sound on Sun and Shade, the focus of the music has a much more communal feel. “Hand It Out” could easily substitute any song by The Byrds in a movie montage that shows friends in bell bottoms frolicking through a field while holding hands. That hippie-sway pop feeling lays easy across the entire record, made unique by the various nooks and crannies that these songs seep into.
A couple shades darker is “Any Other Day”, which pairs a perfect indie melody with a bubbling jangle of guitars and the repeated strain of, “I won’t believe that it can’t get worse”. Earl’s voice is fascinating because you never can tell if his tenor melodies and lyrics are dripping with melancholy or pleasure. That’s one of many mysteries on Sun and Shade that makes these songs so infectious, much like the lead single “Pushing Onlys” where he does so just to “waste the years away.”
Two instrumental tracks, which make up a good 38% of the album time-wise, are essential to the album’s success. The seven-minute polite psych jam “Out Of The Eye” and the almost 10-minute meditative and Middle-Eastern-y “Sol Y Sambra” shine a light into primal and earthy moods of the rest of the album, functioning more like flashbacks in a movie that provide the main characters with some back-story. For the impatient, these tracks may pull the listener’s finger toward the “next” button, but each one is an enjoyable diversion from Woods’ normal brevity on record. Without these two tracks, Sun and Shade wouldn’t be the beautifully sequenced pop record that it is — one that is personal in verse and universal in tone, and one that just begs to be played outdoors as the sun sets and the lightning bugs come out, as the fire is fading and everything seems still and connected. See? It just has that effect on you.