Wooden Shjips have been mining the same rich vein of droning, psychedelic space rock over three albums and a couple of compilations yet here, on their fourth, they show no signs of going stale as they slyly inject subtle variations into their tried and true style.
If Back To Land has anything to differentiate itself from previous releases it is in the looser and lighter feel to many of the songs. The quartet still find those grooves and riffs, lock them in and bleed them dry but now they don’t sound as leaden and dense as much of their previous work. These Shadows is a prime example with its breezy swing while Ruins is positively upbeat and frisky with a skip in its stride.
Wooden Shjips are a band still built on the success of their instrumental chemistry. Ripley Johnson’s vocals are by no means superfluous but they continue to act as another melodic layer. His words are incidental and for the most part their meaning and what he is actually saying is clouded and hazy in the mix and his delivery. The clever yet simple effect of his voice is that it distracts or leads the listener away from those spiraling, interstellar guitar lines and the insistent, repetitive rhythmic mantras making those instrumental features all the more rewarding when the spotlight returns to them.
The absolute highlight of Back To Land and possibly the best song the band have recorded is Everybody Knows. It’s a song that recreates the slacker fuzz of Dinosaur Jr and marries it to a gorgeous repeating keyboard line. It’s one of those songs that feels like it could and should go on forever with a melancholic vibe that sounds both sunny and sad at the same time. There is a dreamy quality to ‘Everybody Knows’ and it is that feel that permeates the whole album and makes it such an absorbing and hypnotic treat.
this review was first published on FasterLouder