A pysch folk time capsule

Woods - Songs of Shame
According to interviews, Woods have a permanent member whose role is “tape effects.” Upon listening to the Brooklyn group’s most recent album, however, I’m not sure what the hell his job actually is. Songs of Shame doesn’t flaunt its lo-fi aesthetic in the same way as fuzz-soaked releases by Wavves or Times New Viking, but there’s no mistaking the album’s rudimentary recording methods. An eleven-song collection of psychedelic rock and campfire folk, it sounds like it was probably laid to tape in the band members’ bedrooms. And, while there’s likely some subtle sound editing going on that I’m not aware of, there are no flashly tape effects on the whole album.

Considering that the group was once the songwriting project of singer/guitarist Jeremy Earl, it’s not entirely surprising that much of the collection is made up of sparse acoustic strummers. These stark folk songs are made are made all the more eerie by Jeremy Earl’s high, feminine voice, which sounds not-quite-human during the sloppy, waltz-time “Born to Lose.” It’s mainly due to Earl’s bleating vocals that Woods have frequently been pigeonholed as freak folk, joining the ranks of other strange-voiced artists like Devendra Banhart and Joanna Newsom. His singing is also the main reason that the band bears a distinct similarity to Neil Young; this is especially noticeable during the cover of Graham Nash‘s protest tune “Military Madness,” which sounds like it arrived in a capsule from 1970.

Elsewhere, Woods resembles a psychedelic jam band; “September with Pete” is nearly ten minutes of stoned noodling that scarcely even changes chords, mostly just acting as a vehicle for a wobbly, wah-wah-soaked guitar solo. It’s such brazen wankery that it’s hard to fault the band for its self-indulgence. While the song might not merit close listening, it’s by no means unpleasant or abrasive, and it befits the album’s sleepy, Sunday morning vibe. It’s a stunningly authentic replica of late ’60s psychedelia, making Songs of Shame a must-hear for anyone still stuck listening to the Velvet Underground or the Byrds on repeat.

Songs of Shame is out now via Woodsist.
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