Woods, The Fresh & Onlys

With a title like At Echo Lake, the fifth album from New York's Woods intimates a modern rock aesthetic fully informed by historical manifestations of teenage along with a concomitant feel for the specifics of time and place. The distance between 2007's At Rear House and 2010's At Echo Lake may at first seem only semantic but it more properly represents a move from a kind of informal back porch jam ethos to a fully-committed vision of the infinite possibilities of group playing.
Over the past few years Woods have established themselves as an anomaly in a world of freaks. They were an odd proposition even in the outré company of vocalist/guitarist/label owner Jeremy Earl's Woodsist roster, perpetually out of time, committed to songsmanship in an age of noise, drone and improvisation, to extended soloing, oblique instrumentals and the usurping use of tapes and F/X in an age of dead-end singer-songwriters. Recent live shows have seen them best confuse the two, playing beautifully-constructed songs torn apart by fuzztone jams and odd electronics.
At Echo Lake feels like a diamond-sharp distillation of the turbulent power of their live shows, in much the same way that The Grateful Dead's "Dark Star" single amplified and engulfed the planetary aspect of their improvised takes. Some of the material here – the opening "Blood Dries Darker", the euphoric "Mornin' Time" – is so lush that lesser brains would've succumbed to the appeal of strings and horns but At Echo Lake is more Fifth Dimension than Notorious Byrd Brothers, nowhere more so than on "From The Horn", a track that is as beautiful in its assault on form as "Eight Miles High" or Swell Maps' "Midget Submarines". But despite the instrumental innovation that the album heralds – G. Lucas Cranes' psychedelic tapework on "Suffering Season", guest musician Matthew Valentine's harmonica and modified banjo/sitar on "Time Fading Lines" – At Echo Lake is all about the vocals.
Woods' secret weapon is the quality of Earl's voice, osmosing the naive style of Jad Fair, Jonathan Richman and Neil Young while re-thinking it as a discipline and a tradition. Here he is singing at the peak of his powers, in a high soulful style that is bolstered by heavenly arrangements of backing vocals. At Echo Lake feels like the transmission point for teenage garage from the past to the future. Deformed by contemporary experiments, bolstered by magical traditions from the past, it's the sound of now, right here, At Echo Lake.
"Songs of Shame performs some sleight-of-hand by sounding private and homespun yet also not just accessible but immediately lovable... has that almost subliminal ability to make one want to move in to listen more closely. And once you've been drawn in for a good listen, it becomes difficult not to want to come back for many more." -Pitchfork

"Tons of great acts played the Woodsist/Todd P. showcase at Mrs. Beas (No Age, Crystal Stilts, The Oh Sees and Blank Dogs just to name a few), but the one that struck the biggest chord with me was this Brooklyn group. Crafting tight and beautifully lighthearted ghostly folkish songs — they are one of the finest bands playing in the unbelievably deep Brooklyn scene. I've seen them a bunch, and each time I get more excited about their sound." MTV.com, Buzzworthy

The Fresh & Onlys

This has been a decisive year for San Francisco's the Fresh & Onlys – including invitations to play All Tomorrow's Parties and then they joined Deerhunter for a UK tour, extensive treks throughout the US, and standout performances at the Woodsist festivals in NY and Big Sur. Keeping with their notorious urgent pace the Fresh & Onlys released a handful of exclusive 7" singles, and Captured Tracks issued the lush and anthemic August In My Mind EP. Now to cap off the year, Play It Strange arrives from the infamous In The Red Records with a tour supporting Clinic across the US to follow. Play It Strange is the third full length album recorded in just over two years since the band's inception with previous albums out on Woodsist and Castle Face. This newest album is also the first recording done outside the band's own analog home studio. Hot on the heels of touring and arranging these new songs live, Play It Strange was furiously recorded and mixed in one week with Tim Green (Fucking Champs, Comets On Fire) at Louder Studios in order to better capture the muscularity and depth of the band's live performances. The Fresh & Onlys newest is a shimmering pop record full of infectious melodic hooks, led by singer Tim Cohen's hazy romanticism, and the incessantly propulsive rhythms of Shayde Sartin and Kyle Gibson. Play It Strange has an evocative moody swagger that jangles with 80's guitar pop like the Go-Betweens, Jacobites, or early R.E.M. and a provocative rawness ala Iggy Pop or The Gun Club. The record is saturated with guitarist Wymond Miles sonic textural sprawl full of desert guitar-noir phrases that call to mind Morricone/The Bad Seeds. Play It Strange is an addictive record that will establish the Fresh & Onlys as a band that effortlessly laces together threads of great guitar bands from decades past. They may not be your favorite secret to keep much longer.

Jessica Pratt

"To say that Jessica Pratt is an old soul would be a vast understatement," says Jenn Pelly of Pitchfork. "The young San Francisco singer/songwriter's deeply intimate folk sounds so sincerely cast in from the 1960s that it's hard to believe she didn't release a proper LP during that period of time." Pratt's spooky and seductive self-titled debut is the inaugural release on Tim (White Fence) Presley's new imprint, Birth Records. "I never wanted to start a label," Presley says, "but there issomething about her voice I couldn't let go of."

Pratt's debut release includes recordings from over the last five years, and steady advances in sophistication of recording and melody are evident throughout. To the artist, the record is a time-lapse document of discovery, both musical and personal. But in strangers' hands, Pratt's debut is another kind of discovery altogether. A fully-formed emerald artifact dug up cobwebby and cold but no less green for its time spent buried. Sun-bleached and sounding a thousand years old, Pratt's debut is arrestingly brand dazzling new, and watch how the lights in your living room go soft and yellow when you put it on."

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Woods, The Fresh & Onlys with Jessica Pratt

Friday, September 27 · 8:00 PM at Center for the Arts, Eagle Rock