Music A.M.: Unwound From The Woods

Unwound from the Woods is Music A.M.'s strongest release to date. Recording circumstances haven't changed—Luke Sutherland (guitar, vocals), Stefan Schneider (bass, synthesizers), and Volker Bertelmann (keyboards) once again recorded the material at their Düsseldorf studio—but the material is better this time around, with the songs' hooks considerably stronger than those on the debut A Heart and Two Stars and EP follow-up My City Glittered Like a Breaking Wave. And though Sutherland's vocals remain feathery whispers couched in delicate beds of electric piano, synthesizers, and bass, the trio's songs have gravitated towards an appealing electronic-soul fusion. Despite a startlingly profane appeal, “Always” oozes a seductive pull while “Say It” and “I Was Born to Make You Happy” wed soul chants to digital strings and guitar shudder. Instrumentals appear again (“You Know Better Now Than You Ever Did Before,” “NY 75,” “Every Bulb in the Place Blew”) with “Miercoles” perhaps the prettiest of the lot, especially when soft horns float over a placid base of handclaps and guitar, and more aggressive cuts (“Stars on 45,” “Your Bones”) announce a welcome dynamic expansion. Still, it's vocal cuts like the lulling “Ten Ton Truck” one remembers most. You might end up puzzling over lyrics like “2, 4, 6, 8 / Who do we appreciate?” but you'll experience no such confusion when confronted with Sutherland's breathy vocal and the song's dreamy vibe.

March 2006