Woods’ Sun and Shade (2011) further refines the haunting folk people keep coming back for by again reaching into the past to craft a riveting tableau of emotional metamorphosis.
The album opens on an apparently bright note, then hustles past the album’s jangly premise, and starts unpacking with the second track’s opening salvo: “I won’t believe it can’t get worse.”
As a whole, the album’s center of gravity rests neatly on the falling action of “Who Do I Think I Am” and the resolution of “Say Goodbye.” The driving focus echoes the coping of someone dealing with a great loss. They’re trying, through ups and downs, heights and collapses, to reach some kind of abiding resolution. At points the album addresses the loss directly as on the track “Hand It Out”, and there are moments like with “Who Do I Think I Am” where it’s a struggle of inner fragmented self doing the coping.
Sun and Shade doesn’t just mimic, but makes plain and lays bare the reality of loss and coping. Like real life, the album doesn’t end well; it also doesn’t end badly. It ends with the acceptance of loss, and the sadness that accompanies it. It still achieves a tenuous resolution where you aren’t forced to forget, as if you could, but you are able to carry on without being torn back again and again like a child impatiently pulling at a scab.
This album succeeds avoiding being a psycho-musical exegesis, with a stream of consciousness coherent through the album both in words and sounds. This is anchored by a loose mythology of archetypes in the sounds themselves, sounds Woods has never before made so articulate; they speak in voices, trembling and murmuring in a way that is as masterful as it is beautiful.