With Light and With Love is the eighth album that Woods has released since the band’s formation in 2005. The album, like their 2012 release Bend Beyond and those before, demonstrates the band’s remarkable ability to churn out lots of music over a relatively short amount of time. There are plenty of indie bands that release an album (or two) every year, writing songs at an incredible pace. Yet few groups release as many carefully crafted and musically fulfilling songs as Woods, and as quickly.
The album carries a similar sound to their past efforts but, to their credit, that sound does not go stale on With Light and With Love. Throughout each song, drummer Kevin Morby provides consistently clean beats, which sound so effortless that it is easy to take them for granted. However, the clean rhythms provide some momentum to the album, which nicely contrasts with the psychedelic quality of the acoustic-distorted guitar combinations that occur on most of the songs.
Though they kick off the album with the country-ish “Shepherd,” the beginning almost seems like a musical fake-out in the context of the overall album. A slide guitar and some faint piano jangles precede Jeremy Earl’s vocal entrance, and this rural, relaxed beginning allows the following song, “Shining,” to pack an even stronger punch than it would have on its own. “Shining” seems particularly reminiscent of their last album, and the partnership between the lead bouncing guitar and the steady acoustic strums lends an antiquated feel to the song. The music underneath the vocals seems like a flashback to late sixties/early seventies grassy rock, but Jeremy Earl pushes the song to the present with his high-pitched but nonabrasive singing. The following song, “With Light and With Love,” adds to the multi-era vibe of the album. It clocks in at a little over nine minutes, but the song does not lose momentum. Rather, it comes across as a genuine and natural jam, with the medium-paced tempo and the chaotic lead guitar rants contrasting in a hypnotic way.
The album introduces an acoustic-leaning gem about halfway through with “New Light,” on which the drums make the song louder, but do not detract from the gentle nature of the song’s pace and melody. In other words, the song ends up sounding like a rocked-out lullaby, which is accentuated by the repetition of the line “may we all sleep tonight.” “Leaves Like Grass” then counters the rock-lullaby tone and slows the album down, creating a folk ballad atmosphere. The slow rhythm, accompanied by an organ and gentle lead guitar, creates a relaxed tone without making the album feel like it has reached its boring obligatory slow section.
The organ returns a couple of songs later on “Only the Lonely,” providing ethereal undertones for the intriguing, gradually developing vocal melody of the song. This track is the last real forceful moment in the album, as it is followed by a ghostly closer. “Feather Man” has a hollow quality, when compared with the other songs on the album. Most of the song is guided by an acoustic guitar, with interspersed electric-guitar hits and some strings. The song, compared with the rest, seems stripped down, but the hollow effect it creates does not end the album unsatisfyingly. Instead, the simplicity of the orchestration, paired with Earl’s crooning, makes the song haunting, and rounds the album out in a quietly evocative way.
Key Tracks: “Shining,” “Leaves Like Grass,” “Only the Lonely”
RIYL: Deer Tick, Ty Segall, Dr. Dog