Woods, “Love Is Love”

Love Is Love

Woods are frequently described of in terms of their consistency—through nine albums (and who knows how many scented candles) there hasn’t really been any shakeup in terms of approach—but even so, the New York group’s discography is decidedly not a straight line. Every release has been strong, but there are a few in particular (2010’s At Echo Lake; 2012’s Bend Beyond) that are so moving in their post-folk charm that they actually threaten the stability of the band’s gentle ecosystem. Knowing what altitudes they have in them makes the open fields a little harder to fully enjoy.

Last year’s City Sun Eater in the River of Light featured a sprinkling of some of the group’s best music to date, and it felt like it could be a setup for something more substantial—hopefully another apex in the Woods topography. So it was a pleasant surprise to see that Jeremy Earl and Co. were returning posthaste with another LP—their tenth overall—and a notably topical one at that. Love Is Love is a political record, written in the immediate aftermath of, and in direct response to, Donald Trump’s election. If the critique of Woods is that they don’t shake things up enough, here is a definitive example to the contrary.

In the album, Earl walks down city streets both painfully deserted (“Love Is Love”) and overly populated (“Lost in a Crowd”). He’s lonely, but he also wants to be left alone. Confused, but also keenly aware of what the problem is. “Have you heard the news?” he asks on “Bleeding Blue.” “Hate can’t lose.”

Sadly, it’s a relatable palette of emotions. And—with kudos to the band’s work overall—it’s an effective half hour of music as well. Solemn melodies transition into defiant ones, and precision fizzles into chaos as the sextet work to communicate all the warring feelings that Earl is sorting out—with all the complications that come with being alive in 2017. When the trumpet swells in “Bleeding Blue,” it cuts like a knife.

Love Is Love isn’t the sought-after Woods masterpiece, but it is the most distinctly earnest LP of their career—the purest of heart. Any work of art pretending to have answers right now is full of shit, and, nice as it would be to avoid it, admitting defeat for the time being is OK, too. The only thing to do is trudge on, one way or the other. The summit might be closer than you think.


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