Heaven and Holy
If you were to knock me over the head with a two by four and play a song by Woods upon my coming to, I think I’d probably recognize Jeremy Earl’s voice before I remembered my own name. Sure, calling his voice “iconic” is a bit silly when his band isn’t particularly close to sniffing the mainstream, but to bearded Brooklyn boys of the early 2010s and new age hippies of the late 2010s, Earl’s voice―both with Woods and various other solo/collaborative entities―is instantly familiar.
All this to say: Earl’s voice is often front and center with any project he’s involved in. After a while, this can pose a bit of a problem—namely, what happens when his charming falsetto becomes a substitute for the music as a whole? Woods has managed to avoid this problem by constantly evolving their sound, and his newest project, Painted Shrines, with Glenn Donaldson, evade said roadblock with an effortless cascade of pastoral psych-folk.
The music on Painted Shrines’ Heaven and Holy is at times a faithful throwback to the early days of Woods’ soft-rock explorations, but the album gains its power from the amount of space Earl and Donaldson traverse without ever playing outside of their decently narrow scope. Opener “Saturates the Eye” would fit right in on an album like Sun and Shade and Bend Beyond. The guitar line is instantly memorable, and the chorus pairs Earl’s easy, playful voice with a screeching guitar line. Those analogous Woods records come from 2011 and 2012, respectfully, so it’s interesting that the music he makes in a capacity outside of Woods nearly a decade later moves closer to that than the jammy compositions his band has shifted to.
But elsewhere on the LP, like on “Not So Bad,” the duo showcase lighthearted post-punk sensibilities. The drums groove and Earl’s vocals are doubled to mimic a circular meditation. The guitar solo is simple―just a few notes, really―but it does the job. “Soft Wasp” interpolates Eastern percussion with the use of a tabla while the guitar line shimmers with the scale of ’90s shoegaze.
Throughout Heaven and Holy, Earl and Donaldson treat their structures as less of a lived-in home than a playground. The tenets are familiar, but the record is jolted by their collective restlessness within these confines. No two songs are the same here, and as is so often the case, Earl’s unique voice is what unites the disparate threads. It’s an easily digestible record, perfect for a sunny afternoon when any bother or ills temporarily cease. The moment doesn’t last, but Painted Shrines will extend it as long as they can.