Woods' new album, Bend Beyond, has already garnered some 248 plays in my last thirty-six hours. From the first listen to the first track it tears into you. A sparse album, it still has the jangly pop feel from the last few albums and the engineering of the first two. If anything, this album feels more like the first two albums in a way.
It has more than a few standout tracks. There is a lot to enjoy, and there is a good mass to album whether you like to zone out or focus on single tracks. Always interesting, the album has a certain tamed quality to the noise. Another listener might say it is more precise or refined, others might call it neutered or procedural. For me it doesn't have the arbitrary feel of weak noise (think obligatory guitar solo that goes nowhere, no payoff), it is missing the raw and unbridled noise of the initial albums, but it definitely has the touch of finessed noise.
The first single of the album, "Cali in a Cup" makes a nice song; lots of listens on last.fm, fits in with the really pleasant Woods songs. "Cascade" is a bubbling wave akin to Out of the Eye off their last album; but it's only about two minutes long. "It ain't easy" is a quick easy fit for the singalong that you don't want to ever stop hearing, as is "Something Surreal.
I don't know if 'great lyrics' is a complement typically given to Woods. I have generally found their lyrics in past releases to be tricky, they tend to pull away from easy fits. While I always enjoy them, this release seemed a bit flat with the words. A minor criticism in the scope of the work as a whole; they work and their nice and all, they just don't hold me like "nothing matters, don't take it from me."
They went in a direction that kind of gutted the warmth in favor of harder lines through the music. This is what reminds me of the first albums. I have liked the warmer tone of the later labums very much, and live they seem to fuse the two into a living organism that swells and writhes between expansions of sound and cold hard contractions punctuated by metals. This album is veering toward that cohesion, but doesn't quite make it.
Anyway, great work as always by Woods; a bit flat but a good album on the whole.