Words by Sean Moeller, Illustration by Johnnie Cluney, Sound engineering by Mike Gentry
Are we gone yet? Are they gone yet? Who's there? It feels like we're outside trying to stay warm on a night like last night in the country air, where nose tips were being rubbed with coldness and the cartilage of the ears was inheriting the same kind of bitten-ness. It feels like we're a long ways from home, like we're up to our knees in cold, cold soil, the bottoms of our feet freezing to the dirt as if it were crushed ice, the roots of age-old trees curling up and over and through the vulnerable toes below, like water moccasins. The songs of WOODS, the New York band with a wooly, long underwear sensibility to it that no one else can match, take us blindfolded and willing into some misty clearing where there's campfire smoke burning your eyes and ranking up your clothing with combusted logs. They lead us into these calm spaces where they sit us down and lay it on us, all of the fears that they feel inhibit and encourage a satisfying insanity that involves a lot of looking around and not talking, just listening and staring and feeling everything that's out there. It's an encompassing feeling that makes the hair stand up on your arms, boosted by the goose bumps and the huddling and shivering that your skin's up to. Lead singer Jeremy Earl is able to make WOODS songs such intimate affairs, with heartbreaking melodicism that creeps over you and puts its fingers into whatever will catch, like a coating of moss and vine. The tendrils of the vine slink along at an imperceptible pace and the moss spreads without moving. You're overcome in the song "Season of Suffering" by a feeling that time really doesn't care what you think - you and it are wired very differently, meant to think about each other in such peculiar ways, one waving goodbye and the other asking trivial questions of what amounts to an inanimate object with the illusion of motion and reflexes. Earl lends these words on that new song: "Who knows what tomorrow might bring/Some folks pass the flowerless spring/And it shows…Who knows what tomorrow might bring/And it shows." It leaves the ambivalence hovering like a homely hummingbird, just there, but being mostly ignored. It's "time's fading lines" that are so controlling and just the idea seems haunted when it comes out of Earl's mouth, lent all of its body and atmosphere by delightful reverberations and minimalistic instrumentation that makes you feel as if you're safe from the stampede, as if those death rattles might still break before they're making their songs for you, before they're getting to be your inner monologue. It's essential listening for anyone finally coming to grips that they are a tiny speck, just out there trying not to be destroyed by the pressure and natural causes.