PopMatters is moving to WordPress in December. We will continue to publish on this site as we work on the move. We aim to make it a seamless experience for readers.


Woods: Love Is Love

Woods deliver six new songs about uncertainty, shame, despair, and ultimately hope for a brighter future.


Love Is Love

Label: Woodsist
Release Date: 2017-04-21

Music and social movements have always been strongly connected. From civil rights hymns to Pete Seeger and Woody Guthrie singing for downtrodden day-laborers to Woodstock and John Lennon. The wheels of social change are often set to music that eventually comes to define generations. The job of scoring that soundtrack has been passed among some of the most influential and notable musicians in recent memory, and it now falls to the artists of today. And we need these new torch bearers more than we have in many years to shed light and bring unity as the world and our nation in particular struggles with stark and seemingly insurmountable ideological rifts. Some of them are socially conscious hip-hop artists, some are loud and unapologetic punk rockers, and some are in a band called Woods.

Love Is Love, the band's 10th full-length album, was written and recorded immediately following the 2016 election, but, like so much of the best music written in response to times like these, it is not strictly about it. Instead, the band tried to make a record that explores the oneness of humanity even in a nation where it seems that so many people have such vastly different ideas about morality, freedom, and truth. The album deals with what love means, what can be done through that love, and what the future might hold. Yes, I know that this is all context and I haven't begun to discuss the content of the album, but before even hearing the music, it truly is important to know where it is coming from and what it is about because it informs everything else about the album.

Musically, Love Is Love is somewhat bare. It is deceptively simple. Six songs in just under 32 minutes, one instrumental and most of them straightforward, repetitive, folksy rock songs. But within that simplicity, there is depth. The opening title track contains the chord progression that serves as the motif for the rest of the project which comes back distorted and hazy and almost imperceptibly through "Spring Is in the Air" and finally triumphant and sure in the closing track. And the band uses other simple tools -- an offbeat-heavy rhythm on the opening track and the correcting of those beats to more natural feel when the motif returns at the end -- to attach the music to the emotion and the lyrics. The celebratory horn cadenza the moment Jeremy Earl sings "love's not dead", the absence of drums on the melancholy and ashamed "I Hit That Drum", and the cyclical flow of the album as a whole are musical elements that sound simple but elevate the emotional resonance of the entire project.

But again, this music was written and recorded quickly and written in a state of shock and tremendous disappointment. It is mostly rooted in the kind of music the band was already familiar with before now, and the shared influence between Love Is Love and 2016's City Sun Eater in the River of Light is clear. Simple grooves accented by smooth horns and sharp, biting electric guitar create the backbone of both albums. Everything is reverbed, everything is surrounded by the slightest atmospheric warble. It is comfortable territory musically, but here the more important elements are the message, the lyrics, the mood, and the tone of the music.

The songs seem to waver between a dismal and uncertain view of life and love and an optimistic sense of unity and support. It's a feeling described by the lyrics on "I Hit That Drum" where Earl sings about the shame and pain and regret of not having done enough and the desperation to escape but the need to remain present and work harder now even when he's exhausted and defeated. The album latches onto one particularly resonant message: "The sun's on time. The sun will rise." It is a line that stands in opposition to much of the current social outcry that spirals around fear and anger and feelings of betrayal. The kind of social movements that demand people separate themselves further and further to remain untainted by negative influence and harmful ideas. It is a line that also stands in opposition to those who harbor hate and count the election as victory and validation of their racism, xenophobia, and sexism. Woods makes the case quite clearly that this is temporary and that the only way to become better and to evolve past this level of division and bitter resentment is to reach out in love.

The opening track has only a few lyrics. It is mostly instrumental especially near the end, but the line "Say that love is love" is repeated over and over as an undercurrent to the music. It takes on a new quality with each repetition, sometimes sounding like a desperate plea for affirmation, sometimes cynical or sarcastic, and sometimes sounding sure and determined. The line returns on the closing track as a response to a question: "How can we love with this kind of hate?" In this song "Say that love is love" sounds like a decision, a resolution. The band repeats it to confirm the necessity and the truth of it. Love Is Love is a new mantra in the tradition of "All You Need Is Love" and "We Shall Overcome", one that attempts to heal, unite, and move forward towards an uncertain future with the assurance that if we come together, the sun will indeed rise again.


Please Donate to Help Save PopMatters

PopMatters have been informed by our current technology provider that we have until December to move off their service. We are moving to WordPress and a new host, but we really need your help to fund the move and further development.





Jefferson Starship Soar Again with 'Mother of the Sun'

Rock goddess Cathy Richardson speaks out about honoring the legacy of Paul Kantner, songwriting with Grace Slick for the Jefferson Starship's new album, and rocking the vote to dump Trump.


Black Diamond Queens: African American Women and Rock and Roll (excerpt)

Ikette Claudia Lennear, rumored to be the inspiration for Mick Jagger's "Brown Sugar", often felt disconnect between her identity as an African American woman and her engagement with rock. Enjoy this excerpt of cultural anthropologist Maureen Mahon's Black Diamond Queens, courtesy of Duke University Press.

Maureen Mahon

Ane Brun's 'After the Great Storm' Features Some of Her Best Songs

The irresolution and unease that pervade Ane Brun's After the Great Storm perfectly mirror the anxiety and social isolation that have engulfed this post-pandemic era.


'Long Hot Summers' Is a Lavish, Long-Overdue Boxed Set from the Style Council

Paul Weller's misunderstood, underappreciated '80s soul-pop outfit the Style Council are the subject of a multi-disc collection that's perfect for the uninitiated and a great nostalgia trip for those who heard it all the first time.


ABBA's 'Super Trouper' at 40

ABBA's winning – if slightly uneven – seventh album Super Trouper is reissued on 45rpm vinyl for its birthday.


The Mountain Goats Find New Sonic Inspiration on 'Getting Into Knives'

John Darnielle explores new sounds on his 19th studio album as the Mountain Goats—and creates his best record in years with Getting Into Knives.


The 100 Best Albums of the 2000s: 60-41

PopMatters' coverage of the 2000s' best recordings continues with selections spanning Swedish progressive metal to minimalist electrosoul.


Is Carl Neville's 'Eminent Domain' Worth the Effort?

In Carl Neville's latest novel, Eminent Domain, he creates complexities and then shatters them into tiny narrative bits arrayed along a non-linear timeline.


Horrors in the Closet: Horrifying Heteronormative Scapegoating

The artificial connection between homosexuality and communism created the popular myth of evil and undetectable gay subversives living inside 1950s American society. Film both reflected and refracted the homophobia.


Johnny Nash Refused to Remember His Place

Johnny Nash, part rock era crooner, part Motown, and part reggae, was too polite for the more militant wing of the Civil Rights movement, but he also suffered at the hands of a racist music industry that wouldn't market him as a Black heartthrob. Through it all he was himself, as he continuously refused to "remember his place".


John Hollenbeck Completes a Trilogy with 'Songs You Like a Lot'

The third (and final?) collaboration between a brilliant jazz composer/arranger, the Frankfurt Radio Big Band, vocalists Kate McGarry and Theo Bleckman, and the post-1950 American pop song. So great that it shivers with joy.


The Return of the Rentals After Six Years Away

The Rentals release a space-themed album, Q36, with one absolute gem of a song.


Matthew Murphy's Post-Wombats Project Sounds a Lot Like the Wombats (And It's a Good Thing)

While UK anxiety-pop auteurs the Wombats are currently hibernating, frontman Matthew "Murph" Murphy goes it alone with a new band, a mess of deprecating new earworms, and revived energy.


The 100 Best Albums of the 2000s: 80-61

In this next segment of PopMatters' look back on the music of the 2000s, we examine works by British electronic pioneers, Americana legends, and Armenian metal provocateurs.


In the Tempest's Eye: An Interview with Surfer Blood

Surfer Blood's 2010 debut put them on the map, but their critical sizzle soon faded. After a 2017 comeback of sorts, the group's new record finds them expanding their sonic by revisiting their hometown with a surprising degree of reverence.


Artemis Is the Latest Jazz Supergroup

A Blue Note supergroup happens to be made up of women, exclusively. Artemis is an inconsistent outing, but it dazzles just often enough.


Horrors in the Closet: A Closet Full of Monsters

A closet full of monsters is a scary place where "straight people" can safely negotiate and articulate their fascination and/or dread of "difference" in sexuality.


'Wildflowers & All the Rest' Is Tom Petty's Masterpiece

Wildflowers is a masterpiece because Tom Petty was a good enough songwriter by that point to communicate exactly what was on his mind in the most devastating way possible.

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.