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 and Onlys

The Bay Area's own Fresh & Only's have really come into their own since I last saw the group, with lineup changes that nixed tambourine girls and took the band away from the rest of the
garage rock pack into something darker and different. A mix of Joy Division and nostalgic guitar rock, reminiscent of the most rockin' Cure songs spliced with a tiny bit of spaghetti western scores, the Fresh & Only's will surely please just about any discerning music lover. At a live show there's twang, jangle, and psychedelia aplenty.

Noise Pop: How did you meet?

Shayde Sartin of F&O's: A record store. That evolved into many nights getting drunk together and eventually playing music together.

NP: Pitchfork recently called y'all "Jangle Rockers," what do you think about that?

S: There are worse things to be called. And we do love to jangle. I would say we have no problem with name calling.

NP: Are you excited about your Noise Pop show?

S: Very excited for the show. Ramona at Bottom of the Hill is great and I always enjoy playing there. It has a very San Francisco feel to it as well. Noise Pop has always been an exciting week as well.

NP: Do you use San Francisco as inspiration for creating, and/or what is your main inspirations, what are you fascinated by?

S: If you're not influenced by your immediate surroundings then you probably looking in the wrong direction. San Francisco has always been a huge part of our inspiration. It's really a small
town so there's always a very intimate feeling. Not just with the people but the places and the history as well.

NP: What do you try to bring to your live shows (good vibes, lucky charms, etc)?

S: I feel like we all try to bring something different. But collectively our goal is total domination.


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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