It’s been three years since the 2006 release of operation:surgery, the last full-length masterpiece released by Bloomington band husband&wife. Now, countless shows, about 6 or 7 “reworked” songs, one e.p., and an album of demos (quick nudes) later, Dark Dark Woods is finally here to mark the band’s third full-length album to date.
Now many know that husband&wife is hands down, my favorite band in Bloomington. I am in love with everything about this band; every note picked/strummed, every beat of the drums, every cymbal crash, and every vocal sang hits me deep in my heart in a way that I cannot describe. But putting all of that aside and listening through this release, there is only one thing I can say about it: It’s perfect.
It is clear that the band (Mike Adams-guitar, vocals, Tim Felton-guitar vocals, Bryant Fox-bass, and Will Rose-drums) really took their time with this album to make sure every song was crafted at its best. And while some reviews claim that the music is sad, I ask them to really take a listen, and read between the lines, to see why these songs are so beautiful and rather inspiring instead of depressing. Yes, I will admit that many of these songs on Dark Dark Woods reveal that the band is not necessarily a friend to major chords, but it’s the slow, somewhat gloom that is embedded in the songs and the vocals that reaches out to me the most. These songs are about life, and life is full of confusing situations and suffering that we all have to get through and work out. husband&wife songs are about these moments, when feel more than you ever have, and you need to make sense of it all. The band is amazing in their ability to insert these emotions expressively into every aspect of their sound.
*This is a song-by-song review, so feel free to stream the album as you read along.
Dark Dark Woods starts off with “Comp Jam”, which has been a part of their set for quite some time. It was featured on two compilations in 2007, Crossroads of America Records’ Fly Over State, Vol. 1 and the Live From Bloomington 2007, then titled “Down With Political Monkey Business”. This song is one of three on the album that features a well-developed, rather long instrumental intro. Nearly two minutes of an eerie guitar melody and percussion create an image of being on lake at nighttime before the first vocals appear “What do you need a boat for? I don’t know…” According to their Daytrotter session, the song was meant to be about understanding the decisions of a friend, but ended up being more about the musical creation.
Following “Comp Jam” is the lyrically powerful “Haven’t Got a Friend”. The first time I heard this song was when Adams played solo at a local concert, and I was immediately moved by how deep the song was. It starts out so simple with a nearly spoken chorus “You sound like everybody else, when you say, that you haven’t got a friend in the world” which is repeated four times before going into the first verse. While the lyrics are repetitive in the song, it’s the repetition paired with the strong build in intensity in both the vocals and the music that really allows this song to become something out of nothing, and really hit home. The lonely theme of the song is paralleled when it ends in the same manner its beginning: a solitary, tired spoken voice and a lonely guitar.
“I Got Fat” marks the first of three upbeat tracks of the album. It’s quite humorous and cute, but always reminds me of two things, seeing them play it live at The Cinemat while the polls closed and Obama was announced president, and the song “Because I Got High” by Afroman. The next ‘happy track’ is “Red Cross Fever”, a longtime favorite of mine, the song is about a friend who went to help out families devastated by Hurricane Katrina and is full of beautiful harmonies and lots of imagery that express the theme effectively.
The jewel of this album in my opinion is the fifth track,“England Lives”. As another track that isn’t going to get you up and dancing, this song goes deep. It starts with mysterious guitar melody that is followed by Felton’s soft but emotion-felt statement “I found my heart today”. The band then echoes the sentiments filling in behind the melody before the completing line”It wasn’t where I had thought”. The song continues in this gloomy but somber fashion until it builds into full-on rock mode somewhere after the second dual-harmonized verse. Obviously a strong effect on this album is building the songs only to let them pan out back to the solitary voice to which the began. This song is no different calming down to end on one tortured note.
Track 6, “Mulberry Squeezins”, is another DDW “up do”, and really exemplifies the “long intro” routine with the first vocals clocking in at 2:54. It starts off with a cymbal roll, softly shrieking tremolo guitar in the background, and a acoustic guitar strumming a gentle rhythm. The music continues a driving build letting the bass enter in and settling into a body-rocking groove before Adams breaks the spell with the first line “Follow down that way. I’m in love with a young man’s run”. One of my favorite parts is the intensity that follows as the band breaks out in voice “Turned brown from working everyday”, and suddenly drop the massive sound as the verse ends. The flexibility in dynamics adds much intrigue to the well-crafted song.
The last ‘happy’ song on the album in terms of being more upbeat is “Support Yourself”, which is really a song about uncertainties. It has a great drum and bass groove and reaches its climax with Felton yelling “I’m not there enough for you…” It’s a charming song that you can’t help dancing and singing along to.
“I’ll avenue body, graceland lord, i’ll avenue life” is a track I was nervous to hear in its finished version. This is another track I grew accustomed to hearing performed solo by Adams in its early creation and as a demo on the demo album quick nudes:demos that was put out in 2008. It’s a beautiful song about Adams’ hometown area in northern Indiana and how much things change whenever you go back to your hometown. I think everyone deals with this on some scale whether they live in the same town their whole life or return to places of their past, expecting it to be what it once was. The finished song surprised me with it’s country feel and full instrumentation. I really like what they did with it.
The last track on the album (excluding the new recording of “you remain unloved” (operation:surgery) and the instrumental piece following it.) is the appropriate “Thanks For Understanding”. This is a true masterpiece of a song, and another that is strong in meaning where it lacks in cheerfulness. It’s a Tim Felton piece, and is quite dark in musical tone. Even the lyrics are in despair:
My swollen broken back, slave to everyone else
And what I lack, when will I find rest
From what I cannot be, and empty “if”s
While it is quite the downer, the strength lies in the sheer honest of the song. All the way up to the final lines “who I am, I’m broken bones (I can’t stretch wide what I can’t find)” you can feel what he is going through, and that is what I love about this song.
Overall, as I stated before, I think this album is perfect. It really captures the energy, passion, and depth of this band and the beauty in their creations. husband&wife is a powerful band, that given a little patience and a focus, uninterrupted listen can really move any listener one step closer inspiration. Dark Dark Woods is great leap forward for the band, and I am excited to see what is to come.
Dark Dark Woods is available now from Crossroads of America Records on in Bloomington record stores: TDs CDs and LPs and Landlocked Music. It can also be ordered for the label and the band websites. WIUX is sponsoring their CD Release Party (Tonight!) at the Cinemat with locals the Delicious and Morrow. $8 gets you in the door with a copy of Dark Dark Woods in your hand. Show starts at 8!
Don’t forget the footage of Tim and Will on my radio show!