Release Date: April 22, 2016
Wood Lake latest record, ‘Hell’, can hardly be accused of sameness. The tracks swing from grunge pop (“Head in the Sand”) to heavy shoegaze (“Sam McGee”) and many places in between. Yet it always sounds like Wood Lake, and Wood Lake are on to a good thing.
Mixing sweet pop singing and brash alternative guitar is not exactly something new, but it sounds fresh in the hands of Harry McGuire (vocals/guitar) and the boys regardless. Maybe it’s the fact that that the electric cataclysm of sound is always joyful no matter how thunderous it is (consider “Hollow”). Then again, it could be MacGuire’s crafty melodies delivered with swooping drama. Even during the album’s softest moments (“Easy Love” followed by “Barrhaven”) quirks in the arrangement prevent things from floating off to ballad hell. In the case of “Easy Love” a sinister tinge is kept around edges at all times, whereas in “Barrhaven” the band drop a massive bomb of guitar distortion half-way through, blowing any thoughts of cuteness to utter smithereens.
Of course, a band’s sound never comes completely out of nowhere. So, yeah, Wood Lake stand on the shoulders of some giants in the fields of alternative rock, shoegaze, post-rock, etc. However, they do not merely copy the styles of others, nor do they engage in pastiche. They forge something of their own – something distinctly Wood Lake. As evidenced in the opening to “Oceans” this “something” can be very noisy and post-rock, but it isn’t intimidating. On the other hand, aside from a minor dalliance in Foo Fighter-style faux earnestness (the middle section of “Oceans”), the band can revel unabashedly in melody without being cringe-worthy. It may not quite be a new form of music for the new millennium, but it is at least their own.