PopMatters is moving to WordPress. We will publish a few essays daily while we develop the new site. We hope the beta will be up sometime late next week.

Woods: City Sun Eater in the River of Light

A slight step out of the comfort zone from Brooklyn's Woods, one of indie rock's most reliable and steady voices


City Sun Eater in the River of Light

Label: Woodsist
US Release Date: 2016-04-08
UK Release Date: 2016-04-08

With nine albums in ten years, Brooklyn’s Woods are nothing if not prolific. Anchored in low-key, folk-influenced rhythms focused around singer Jeremy Earl’s airy vocals, the band puts out quality work that projects thoughtful and measured reflection rather than a rushed and harried focus that their proclivity for output may suggest. Keeping a consistent tone, despite a somewhat revolving door of band members, has been one of Woods’ hallmarks. Rarely have their recordings veered too far from the folk-indie template, and rarely do they misstep their bounds by venturing into territory far from their wheelhouse. It’s a format that has served the band well. Other than difficulty in distinguishing which song comes from which album, their music possesses a near-excellent quality that effortlessly sparks attention and interest without overstretching its welcome.

City Sun Eater in the River of Light, is the rather cumbersome title of their latest release, dropped as always on the band’s own appropriately titled Woodsist label. Its ten tracks are presented with a minimal amount of fuss, forgoing any semblance of the trippy loops or psych freak-outs that have revealed themselves from time to time with their prior oeuvre. What’s noticeable, however, is an attempt to play around a little with the formula. Some new wrinkles pop up in certain corners of the album; some that really work and some that could benefit from a little bit of redirection.

First, there’s a little layer of soul. Horns blaze through the background of album opener, Sun City Creeps”, Stax-like keys anchor “Creature Comfort”, and bouncy, propulsive drumming rocks “”Politics of Free”. “Can’t See at All” takes this motif even further as the nearly five-minute track bubbles along on a slick and funky reggae beat. It’s a nice sidestep for a band that maybe occasionally trades out some of their Grateful Dead records for some Bob Marley or Sly Stone ones. Conversely, there’s also some menace found lurking between the grooves. A spooky ambience clouds the duration of “Hang It On Your Wall” while “I See In The Dark” plays like the accompanying track to a tense police chase scene in a film or television series.

Woods’ attempts at dabbling out of character are admirable and applause worthy. You never want to get stuck in a rut or labeled strictly as purveyors of the same. However, it would have been interesting to see them go even a bit further in their pursuit of something bolder. A couple of tracks beg for a bit more jamming to round out the endings or to pad the midsection. And, though, he’s always been the vocalist, Earl could maybe benefit from a second lead voice to help bring some of their genre exercises to full fruition. The aforementioned “Can’t See at All” would sound even stronger with a backing chorus echoing the chorus and refrain.

Like kindred spirits Blitzen Trapper and Real Estate, Woods are a well-oiled touring machine, traveling far and wide to perform tunes that are eagerly received by their adoring fan bases. The rub lies in the environment, though. The rooms tend to stay the same size, and the faces tend to likely look familiar from the vantage point of the stage. These are true working bands that make a solid living playing to their respective corners of the indie rock universe. While this cycle certainly serves as a success story-after all, so many bands never make it past the local garage or dive bar-it also tends to lower the ceiling and puts Woods in a tricky predicament. Make a record like this one, and it generally brings in solid reviews and keeps the fans pleased. Choosing to take a hard detour and galloping down a more offbeat path, though, carries risk. The bands that have reached the status in which they control their own destiny are few and far between. Woods haven’t quite carved that spot out but they have put in enough quality work to earn the right to play with the formula. There are glimpses of risk here and there on City Sun Eater but a few more curveballs could really be the remedy that brings home a larger reward.


Please Donate to Help Save PopMatters

PopMatters have been informed by our current technology and hosting provider that we have less than a month, until November 6, to move PopMatters off their service or we will be shut down. We are moving to WordPress and a new host, but we really need your help to save the site.





Peter Frampton Asks "Do You Feel Like I Do?" in Rock-Solid Book on Storied Career

British rocker Peter Frampton grew up fast before reaching meteoric heights with Frampton Comes Alive! Now the 70-year-old Grammy-winning artist facing a degenerative muscle condition looks back on his life in his new memoir and this revealing interview.


Bishakh Som's 'Spellbound' Is an Innovative Take on the Graphic Memoir

Bishakh's Som's graphic memoir, Spellbound, serves as a reminder that trans memoirs need not hinge on transition narratives, or at least not on the ones we are used to seeing.


Gamblers' Michael McManus Discusses Religion, Addiction, and the Importance of Writing Open-Ended Songs

Seductively approachable, Gamblers' sunny sound masks the tragedy and despair that populate the band's debut album.


Peter Guralnick's 'Looking to Get Lost' Is an Ode to the Pleasures of Writing About Music

Peter Guralnick's homage to writing about music, 'Looking to Get Lost', shows how good music writing gets the music into the readers' head.


In Praise of the Artifice in George Cukor's 'Sylvia Scarlett'

George Cukor's gender-bending Sylvia Scarlett proposes a heroine who learns nothing from her cross-gendered ordeal.


The Cure: Ranking the Albums From 13 to 1

Just about every Cure album is worth picking up, and even those ranked lowest boast worthwhile moments. Here are their albums, spanning 29 years, presented from worst to best.


The 20 Best Episodes of 'Star Trek: The Original Series'

This is a timeless list of 20 thrilling Star Trek episodes that delight, excite, and entertain, all the while exploring the deepest aspects of the human condition and questioning our place in the universe.


The 20 Best Tom Petty Songs

With today's release of Tom Petty's Wildflowers & All the Rest (Deluxe Edition), we're revisiting Petty's 20 best songs.

Joshua M. Miller

The 11 Greatest Hits From "Greatest Hits" Compilations

It's one of the strangest pop microcosms in history: singles released exclusively from Greatest Hits compilations. We rounded 'em up and ranked 'em to find out what is truly the greatest Greatest Hit of all.


When Punk Got the Funk

As punks were looking for some potential pathways out of the cul-de-sacs of their limited soundscapes, they saw in funk a way to expand the punk palette without sacrificing either their ethos or idea(l)s.


20 Hits of the '80s You Might Not Have Known Are Covers

There were many hit cover versions in the '80s, some of well-known originals, and some that fans may be surprised are covers.


The Reign of Kindo Discuss Why We're Truly "Better Off Together"

The Reign of Kindo's Joseph Secchiaroli delves deep into their latest single and future plans, as well as how COVID-19 has affected not only the band but America as a whole.


Tommy Siegel's Comic 'I Hope This Helps' Pokes at Social Media Addiction

Jukebox the Ghost's Tommy Siegel discusses his "500 Comics in 500 Days" project, which is now a new book, I Hope This Helps.


Kimm Rogers' "Lie" Is an Unapologetically Political Tune (premiere)

San Diego's Kimm Rogers taps into frustration with truth-masking on "Lie". "What I found most frustrating was that no one would utter the word 'lie'."


50 Years Ago B.B. King's 'Indianola Mississippi Seeds' Retooled R&B

B.B. King's passion for bringing the blues to a wider audience is in full flower on the landmark album, Indianola Mississippi Seeds.


Filmmaker Marlon Riggs Knew That Silence = Death

In turning the camera on himself, even in his most vulnerable moments as a sick and dying man, filmmaker and activist Marlon Riggs demonstrated the futility of divorcing the personal from the political. These films are available now on OVID TV.


The Human Animal in Natural Labitat: A Brief Study of the Outcast

The secluded island trope in films such as Cast Away and television shows such as Lost gives culture a chance to examine and explain the human animal in pristine, lab like, habitat conditions. Here is what we discover about Homo sapiens.


Bad Wires Release a Monster of a Debut with 'Politics of Attraction'

Power trio Bad Wires' debut Politics of Attraction is a mix of punk attitude, 1990s New York City noise, and more than a dollop of metal.

Collapse Expand Reviews

Collapse Expand Features

PM Picks
Collapse Expand Pm Picks

© 1999-2020 PopMatters.com. All rights reserved.
PopMatters is wholly independent, women-owned and operated.