City Sun Eater in the River of Light
Woodsist Records, 2016
Review by Kent Manthie
This new album from Brooklyn’s Woods, City Sun Eater in the River of Light, which hits the streets April 8, 2016, starts off, from the first notes of the opening cut, “Sun City Creeps”, with this reggae/dub style, which, after about 28 seconds into the song, switches up and instead, goes into a less reggae-vibe and more of a neo-psychedelic, multi-colored sound, with bits and pieces of folk in there.
While City Sun Eater does have some elements of reggae throughout the album, i.e., beats, guitar riffs, bass, etc., there is fused into this album, more styles that show off what diverse talents and backgrounds Woods has. To tell the truth, these guys are new to me and, in a pleasant kind of surprise, I found myself enjoying the iconoclastic, in some ways and the juxtaposing of a few different sub-genres into what’s become the “Woods Sound”.
To show just how underrated this psych-folk-rock outfit is, since their debut album in 2006, they’ve released eight full-lengths (“and then some…”). And that doesn’t include this brand new album, City Sun Eater in the River of Light, all released on their own, indie label, Woodsist.
Lead singer, Jeremy Earl’s falsetto vocals have a sound, which is not unlike Jon Anderson of 70s prog-rock giants, Yes (I know they did some stuff in the 80s, but I’d rather just remember Anderson and Yes for what they did best, which ended in the late 70s. I just had to write that in, because, all throughout City Sun Eater…when he sang, he sounded like a dead-ringer for Anderson. Not that the band sounds anything like Yes, the only thing I’m comparing here is the way the Jeremy’s singing sounds like Jon Anderson. Beyond that one likeness, the rest of the music sounds absolutely nothing like any kind of art rock or prog-rock or glam rock, etc – i.e., nothing derivative of the 70s. There is a rather high noon, lazing-about mellowness which makes for some groovy zoning-out music. Something which evokes an unhurried drive through town in your car, the a/c on as well as a cracked-open window blowing a breeze through your hair – that is, unless you’re driving a convertible, in which case, feel free to let it all hang out!
Jon Anderson-sounding, notwithstanding, Jeremy Earl’s warm falsetto voice, from the early stages of the opening track, “Sun City Creeps”eclipses, somewhat, the kaleidoscopic, colorful, jubilaeum music which really shines, once you get into its groove.
Well, getting into the deconstruction of the album, itself, there are some unique songs on here that escape comparisons and elude categorizations. I mean, City Sun Eater… is, basically, a rock album, one that falls into one of the many sub-genres into which “rock” has splintered since the 1960s.
Some great examples of this include the aforementioned opening cut, “Sun City Creeps”, then, the more uptempo, almost pop-style of “Creature Comfort”, the (again) reggae/dub-infused psych-pop that is “Can’t See at All”. With a loopy organ giving the song a nice driving push, backed by a dub-stompin’ beat, and a guitar which is playing concentric circles within the song, but not standing out so much as to dominate it. It’s got an infectious sound about it, it took about two or three listens, myself, to get a sense of what they were infusing their music with and how it all came together in such a way as to be captivating, original and spontaneous at times. They’re not always so predictable. Although, they’re not so wide-ranging that they go too far afield, but they do keep things interesting. This is another of, by now, many, bands as well as individual artists who I’m awfully glad don’t get commercial radio airplay (at least on a big, wide-ranging scale, maybe there are some college radio stations or some really hip radio stations in what used be such a vibrant place for music. With all the various “scenes” there were in NYC from the 50s, really, like Be-Bop, Post-bop and Avant-Garde or “Free”-Jazz, which was really a product of the 60s, to the anti-peace, love and flowers-in-your-hair of the West Coast, epitomized by The Velvet Underground and by Lou Reed, himself. And of course, you had the late 70s rise of CBGB and all the hardcore and punk bands who played there, like The Ramones, Talking Heads (which were more New Wave – not, what many think of as “New Wave”, which is really “The New Romantics”, like Duran Duran, et al. But, then, all of, or most of it was going on in Manhattan, mostly downtown, sometimes uptown. As for Brooklyn, although I would rather live there in the early 80s than now, after it’s been gentrified to the max and property/rents have soared to just about impossible-to-afford places to live for many up-and-coming artists, musicians, etc., not to mention the average, not-rich-but-middle-working-class people, who now, I suppose, have to find an affordable dwelling on Staten Island or Queens.
Woods is a product of Brooklyn and they’ve been at it, now for some time, having just finished their ninth album. Remember: Brooklyn’s just across the Bridge from Manhattan, it’s not, like the difference between Manhattan and, say, Buffalo (no disrespect to Buffalo, but, that’s not what I’m getting at).
Now, with Woods and their new album just about to be released, I hope there’s a steady cult-following that goes to all their shows, then spreads the word-of-mouth to their friends, etc and soon, you start to have huge turnouts for these gigs.
Staying underground is cool and, of course, keeping it indie is always the best way to go, but still, some bands would like to come up for a little air now and then, not necessarily to get popular and sell-out, etc. in order to broaden their audience and sell more CDs and make a little money. After all, just because you have artistic integrity doesn’t mean you’ve taken a vow of poverty!
I just don’t know what else I can say about these guys. Their music is terrific, they really know how to write a crafty pop song and seem to be peerless in this day and age of so many cookie cut-outs which ride on top of each others shoulders. Woods stands alone and sounds like a band apart. The next best thing I can do is to recommend to you that you go and give this album a listen. If you like it enough, listen to City Sun Eater, then I hope you’ll go back and dig up some of their previous work. It may or may not be available on Amazon, although, I doubt that. But, if you’re more into buying from independent sellers, go to: http://www.woodsist.com/ where you can read about and/or buy this new album or their older stuff. Hope you enjoy listening. -KM.