MUSIC

John Moreland

John Moreland doesn’t have the answers, and he’s not sure anyone does. But he’s still curious, basking in the comfort of a question, and along the way, those of us listening feel moved to ask our own. “I don’t ever want to sound like I have answers, because I don’t,” he says. “These songs are all questions. Everything I write is just trying to figure stuff out.” 

Moreland is discussing his new album Birds in the Ceiling, a nine-song collection that offers the most comprehensive insight into the thoughts and sounds swimming around in his head to date. A
compelling blend of acoustic folk and avant-garde pop playfulness, Birds in the Ceiling lives confidently in a space of its own, enriched by tradition but never encumbered by it. The songwriting that has stunned fans and critics alike since 2015’s High on Tulsa Heat remains potent, while the sonic evolution that unfolds on the record feels like a natural expansion of 2020’s acclaimed LP5.

The New Yorker, Pitchfork, Fresh Air, Paste, GQ, and others have embraced Moreland’s meditative songs, while performances on The Late Show with Stephen Colbert, CBS This Morning, NPR Tiny Desk Concert, and more have introduced Moreland to millions. And yet, while the Tulsa-based Moreland is grateful for the respect and musical conversation he’s now having with people around the world, he is also more focused on the idea of just talking to one person––or even himself. “Through the years, I’ve felt like I’m increasingly talking to myself in my songs, more and more,” he says. “Maybe in the past, I wasn’t aware
of it, but now, I am. I think doing that has helped me be less hard on myself, which makes you more generous and compassionate in general.” 

Moreland’s songs do feel intimate––like overheard conversations or solitary meditations. “I want to talk one-on-one to someone in a song,” he says. “I don’t want to address a group, really, because I think that’s when it’s easy to start pontificating––and it gets less honest.” 

Woods

Woods are in bloom again, inviting you to disappear into a new spectrum of colors and sounds and dreams on Perennial. 

Formed in Brooklyn in 2004, Woods have matured into a true independent institution, above and below the root, reliably emerging every few years with new music that grows towards the latest sky. Operating the Woodsist label since 2006 and curating the beloved homespun Woodsist Festival for the musical universe they’ve built, Perennial is the sound of a band on the edge of their 20th anniversary and still finding bold new ways to sound like (and challenge) themselves. 

Perennial grew from a bed of guitar/keyboard/drum loops by Woods head-in-chief Jeremy Earl, a form of winter night meditation that evolved into an unexplored mode of collaborative songwriting. With Earl’s starting points, he and bandmates Jarvis Taveniere and John Andrews convened, first at Earl’s house in New York, then at Panoramic House studio in Stinson Beach, California, site of sessions for 2020’s Strange To Explain. With a view of the sparkling Pacific and tape rolling, they began to build, jamming over the loops, switching instruments, and developing a few dozen building blocks. 

The album’s resulting 11 songs, 4 of them instrumental, are in the classic Woods mode—shimmering, familiar, fractionally unsettling—but with the half-invisible infinity boxes of Earl’s loops burbling beneath each like a mysterious underground source. From source to seed to bloom, each loop unfolds into something unpredictable, from the jeweled pop of the aching “Little Black Flowers” to the ecstatic starlit freak-beat of “Another Side.” They are blossomings both far-out and comforting, like the Mellotronic cloud-hopping of “Between the Past,” or sometimes just plain comforting, like the widescreen snowglobe fantasia of the instrumental “White Winter Melody,” touched by Connor Gallaher’s pedal steel.