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Woods

Born of Brooklyn's ragged D.I.Y. scene in the mid-2000s, Woods began as a solitary recording project and grew over the next few years into a multi-dimensional and highly respected indie band. Over the years, the group branched out from their eerie, lo-fi noise-folk beginnings to explore Ethiopian jazz and African pop influences on their 2016 album City Sun Eater in the River of Light and brought their uncommon hybrid approach to new levels of clarity and maturity with 2020's Strange to Explain. Woods was formed in 2005 as a side project for Meneguar's Jeremy Earl. Earl recorded the debut Woods release How to Survive In/In the Woods, a double cassette that appeared on the Fuckittapes label shortly after the project's inception in 2005. The album's acoustic-leaning sounds and the off-the-cuff, lo-fi recording style cultivated the band's loose and searching vibe early on. In 2007, Woods released a slew of material including the "Ram" 7", the full-length album At Rear House, and a CD reissue of How to Survive In/In the Woods, this time appearing on Earl's Woodsist label. Woods Family Creeps arrived in 2008 and marked the inclusion of new bandmembers Jarvis Taveniere (also of Meneguar) and G. Lucas Crane. The next year's follow-up album, Songs of Shame, was the most well-received to date from the prolific yet still largely underground band, earning taste-making indie website Pitchfork's Best New Music accolade and exposing the group to new listeners. Their third proper full-length, At Echo Lake, which featured the arrival of Kevin Morby on bass, arrived in late spring of 2010 and was followed up a year later by Sun and Shade. Apart from being endlessly prolific, the band's sound was growing from the hushed solo fare of its earliest days into more amplified, roots-leaning rock, placing Earl's high-pitched vocals atop ambling Neil Young & Crazy Horse-esque rave-ups. Drummer Aaron Neveu was added to the touring version of Woods, allowing Taveniere to focus solely on guitar instead of the double duty he'd done on previous recordings. Amid a regular touring schedule, Woods worked with California outsider circuit-bender Amps for Christ for a collaborative split LP in 2012, and issued their fifth proper full-length, Bend Beyond, later that year. They continued to expand their sound in terms of both recording quality and heightened production with 2014's shinier, fuller sixth LP With Love and with Light, their first album made in a proper studio. Arriving in 2016, City Sun Eater in the River of Light was their second in-studio effort; it added elements of Ethiopian jazz, '70s West Coast rock, and a horn section on a few tracks. Around this time, Kyle Forester was added as full-time saxophonist/keyboard player. Later in the year they released two live albums, Recorded Live at Pickathon (a split release with the Men) and Live at Third Man Records. They decided to take some time off, but their intense feelings about the results of the U.S. presidential election spurred them to go back into the studio. Love Is Love was recorded over a two-month span and saw the bandmembers working quickly to get their raw emotions on tape, while sticking with the Ethiopian jazz influences and adding some laid-back funk to the mix. The album was released by Woodsist in May of 2017. A few months before that, the band appeared at the Marfa Myths Festival in Texas, where one of the other headliners was Dungen. As part of the festivities, the two bands were given a chance to collaborate. Earl and Taveniere teamed with Dungen's Gustav Ejstes and Reine Fiske to write songs and record them free of outside pressures. The results were released by Mexican Summer in early 2018 as Myths 003. Woods took some time while working toward their next proper album. After the release of Love Is Love, Earl became a parent and Taveniere moved to California. The band convened in Stinson Beach, a removed locale in Northern California, for the recording of their 11th full-length Strange to Explain. The album was released in May of 2020 as the 99th release on the Woodsist label. Touring was put on hold for Strange to Explain due to the COVID-19 pandemic, so with the extra free time the band readied a collection of unreleased rarities and random tracks. Compiled under the title Reflections, Vol. 1: Bumble Bee Crown King and released in October of 2020, the eight-song album gathered material recorded between 2009 and 2013 that hadn't yet made it to the public. After being released online, plans were put in place for a limited-edition vinyl run sometime in 2021.
© Fred Thomas /TiVo
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