Woodpecker “Thanks Anyway”
A woodpecker is of course a bird and these songs will remind you of A. Bird, Andrew Bird (and Sufjan Stevens). They will do this as AB and SS are two of the foremost practitioners of the kind of string-based art-folk that Woodpecker practice. There’s another bird you can add to the mix too, think of Woodpigeon’s ensemble folk. For me this is a good set of comparators and Woodpecker’s musical plumage isn’t overshadowed by the splendour of the others.
Woodpecker formed originally to score a short film and their songs are full of cinematic images and signifiers. ‘Movie People’ exposes the tedium of the creative process and the banality of most of the ideas. ‘Married to the Movies’ largely eschews strings for banjo and acoustic guitar and creates a touching vignette of a relationship before embarking on a tour through a Zombie apocalypse (the song not the relationship). They are good at setting scenes ‘GH1 with a Zoom Pancake Lens and Whatever Else We Lost That Day’ (they are less succinct with titles) picks a moment where a relationship could go either way, they weave the story around banjo, strings and mandolin, it feels so poignant that the act of listening is like eavesdropping. Other cultural artefacts are also mined for material ‘Matt and Ben’ speaks of school bullies becoming failed songwriters, ‘Paperbacks with Paragraphs Underlined’ is used as a metaphor for passing and ‘Old Photos of Coney Island on the Queens Museum V Coney Island this Afternoon’ (see what I mean about titles) is the jumping off point for a melancholic stroll down the boardwalk where the picnic hamper is a cheap plastic bag. The opening ‘Every Boy in New York’ is a warm swoon, a kind of establishing shot that makes you think that the film is going to be a romcom, it’s jaunty and though ‘every boy in New York has a broken heart and a cat’ you expect by the end of the film there will be an outbreak of happiness. However, by the time we get to ‘If You See Something…’ we know things won’t work out but it doesn’t matter, we’ve been lured in and time has flown. When the record ends we blink against the harsh world as though emerging from the cinema into daylight knowing that the last hour was worth surrendering.