[sic] Magazine

Woods – Perennial

The Japanese call it shinrin-yoku (森林浴): “forest bathing” – an immersive form of ecotherapy for those burnt out by the modern world. As a concept, it’s one Woods must surely identify with, their 12th album in almost 20 years built on frontman Jeremy Earl’s babbling, organic loops and his reflection that “perennial plants and flowers are nature’s loops.” A testament then to the band’s longevity, consistency and their trademark bucolic bliss, Perennial is not only well titled, it also showcases the band’s excellent new take on their summery psych-pop sound, building on and in places surpassing the laid-back template of 2020’s beautiful Strange To Explain.

Perennial’s strength comes from its sequencing, its strong melodies, and its range of instrumentation. Instrumental composition bookends shifts in mood, a spine of stunning vocal-led material pushing Woods’ ecotone boundaries further than they’ve ever been before. Mellotron, vibraphone, autoharp and more set the easy-going vibe, opening track “The Seed”, for example, planting what Perennial the album later sows.

Earl’s instantly recognisable, creaking folk falsetto is warm, his lyrics more melancholy however than on Strange To Explain, droning organ and guitar repeats setting him up for a tour de force performance of heavy-hearted dreaminess, lobotomized dopamine hits masking regret and depression on the standout “Sip Of Happiness”. The dark undertow of upright bass equally pulls at the triumphant fabric of interwoven guitar and harmonies on “Day Moving On” in turn. Another highlight, “Another Side” is as impressive and adventurous as Woods have ever been. Led by Connor Gallaher’s pedal steel and some wheezy organ, it’s not unlike the undulating caresses of The Flaming Lips, Earl’s chilly vocal bringing a dynamic, extended intro and the jammy, distorted outro together.

The dreamy soundtrack nevertheless to some gently stoned BBQ, these shuffling, horizontally chilled tunes swell the eardrum with drifting mellotron and an outdoorsy hum, Kyle Forester’s soothing sax adding a classy side of FM pop-rock. Sun-dappled licks are extremely zen, vibraphone exotica catching the eye of library music, while classy Wurlitzer flourishes round out the listen on the closing title track. Spending time with Woods can make you feel just as reinvigorated as bathing in forests, Perennial luxuriating in all of its past cycles and still delivering a record that’s very much now.

Best tracks: “Another Side” & “Sip Of Happiness”

~Perennial is released 15th September 2023 via Woodsist.~