This Friday, WUD Music and Der Rathskeller invite Woods, EXITMUSIC, and Purling Hiss to guide listeners through a progression of sounds that will make you feel anything from overwhelming nakedness to toe-tapping delight.
In sharp contrast to their openers, Woods, from Brooklyn, transport you to a far more luminescent world. The majority of their latest album, Bend Beyond, features songs to which you can bob your head or sway side to side, one arm raised to the sky and the other wrapped around a dear friend. But the album also features moments of calm as found in a track like “It Ain’t Easy”, offering the same easy rhythms but through warmer and more folky instrumentation. Described as “a lo-fi indie folk-pop band”, Woods released 2009’s Songs of Shame on Woodsist/Shrimper, which received critical acclaim and was labeled “Best New Music” by Pitchfork.
Though Woods began in 2005 with Jeremy Earl recording acoustic songs in his home, the warm reception of Songs of Shame created buzz surrounding the band, allowing them to tour and encouraging them to fine-tune their live sound. According to their bio, After multi-instrumentalist, Jarvis Taveniere, bassist Kevin Morby, and G. Lucas Crane joined the live band, Woods’ live sound began to mature, but despite such a transformation, they decided to take a new approach to their 2012 release, Bend Beyond.
Earl and Taveniere worked together to write the 12-song album, utilizing dynamic elements of their live sound and taking a more deliberate, less hurried approach to songwriting. What followed was a lighthearted record bearing the comfort of home with a touch of ruggedness and dreamy instrumentation. If you pay close enough attention, you might find similarities to The Shins or, like on the track “Lily”, guitars and vocals faintly reminiscent of The Beatles. Their chord progressions also channel the likes of Portugal, the Man, with moderate distortion on the guitars and long instrumental segments showcasing some pretty neat guitar solos and swells, as in the album’s title track and in “Size Meets the Sound”.
The album ends with a song entitled “Something Surreal”, which is exactly how one could describe Woods’ unique sound. Earl’s falsetto and eclectic musical arrangements will transport you to someplace otherworldly, and somehow, some way, still very close to home.
The first opener for Woods is Brooklyn-based duo, Devon Church and Aleksa Palladino, together known as EXITMUSIC. The pair, who married in 2008, began writing together in New York following Church’s one-year teaching gig in Taiwan and India. Both were into writing music, Church with his acoustic guitar and Palladino with her four-track, but their move to Los Angeles a year later acted as the catalyst for turning a quotidian hobby into a serious project, as they spent the next year familiarizing themselves with the recording process. In 2009, however, the couple moved back to New York after Palladino landed the role of mob wife, Angela Darmody, on HBO’s acclaimed series, Boardwalk Empire.
Their debut album, Passage, released this past May, introduces a momentum that strips you of all defenses, leaving you in a place where you’re forced to examine your greatest losses and failures and unearth the jarring scenes of a past you thought you’d laid to rest. It’s this quality that makes the tracks on Passage sometimes difficult to stomach – but in the best way.
The title track, for instance, opens with soft piano and erratic breathing, drawing you slowly into what feels like a forgotten memory, but quickly escalates into a roaring production, as Palladino’s shaky vocals elicit an age-old aching in your lungs and down your spine. Such raw elements grace every track on the album from start to finish, creating an ethereal experience for the listener, at times not too dissimilar from the work of bands like Beach House, if Beach House were to adopt a much heavier and primal sound.
EXITMUSIC masterfully juxtapose the light and the dark, the soft and the weighted, to create a transparency within us as listeners that forces us to reexamine the parts of us we’ve glossed over, instead prizing our rawness as human beings who sometimes undergo damage we’re then so eager to write off. But it’s their music, both ghostly and confrontational, that invites us to take a second look. In their biography, Church explains, “We want our music to confront people in a gentle but powerful way, to make them feel something,” to which Palladino adds, “To feel human again… To remind people, and even us, to let yourself be vulnerable.” The emotional spectrum conveyed through their music is at once haunting, comforting, bare-boned, and richly satisfying, making EXITMUSIC a must-see this weekend.
Indie-rock band from Philadelphia, Purling Hiss, will then be first to woo the audience, bringing their gritty, grunge-inspired tunes to the stage. Mike Polizze, singer and guitarist of Purling Hiss, had garnered a local following a few years back while in the band, Birds of Maya, but Purling Hiss as they’re known today had more humble beginnings, with Polizze as a one-man act cranking out home recordings.
In 2007, he recorded Public Service Announcement, a collection of guitar-driven rock songs, which was later released in 2010 after Polizze had already put out two other albums, “Purling Hiss” and “Hissteria”, both intended to showcase the range of sounds he was able to accomplish. It wasn’t until Kurt Vile, both a singer-songwriter known for 2011’s Smoke Ring for My Halo and Polizze’s friend, announced he was going on the Childish Prodigy tour that Purling Hiss became a full-fledged band as Polizze rounded up some friends and hit the road last fall.
Polizze pegs his adolescence as the stage in his life when he became impassioned toward his music. Having experienced little satisfaction from school and working several odd jobs, Polizze turned to his hard-hitting, grunge-clad riffs to find what he was looking for. In an interview for the Chicago Tribune published this past February, Polizze said, “I wish I was a little bit more mature when I was 18 years old, but things happen for a reason. I wish I would have snapped out of it a bit earlier. But I was always on the right path with music.”
Friday night’s lineup looks very promising; watch a few videos/listen to some tracks from each band below and see for yourself!