Sherwood - A Different Light (Cover Artwork)


A Different Light (2007)


Remind me to send a thank-you note to Ben Gibbard. I could be wrong, but I'm guessing he's had something to do with the proliferation of mellow, vibe-tone sequencing amongst bands like Sherwood.

I could be wrong, though, and I'm not sure if I'm being sarcastic.

A Different Light sees the recent, initial MySpace Records signees straying from the straight-forward, sometimes-insipid guitars-and-choruses approach their previous records contained, but for territory that feels, in a number of ways, even less risky.

They've headed for synth-and-sequencing land, so inevitably the songs are longer and we've got make-believe vibraphones and cellos to contend well as a whole lot of reverse reverb leading in and out of the 'bigger-sounding' portions of songs.

Oh, and electronic drumkits, of course.

Maybe it just feels like the hooks are repeated more often per song. Maybe the album's track sequencing just feels a little contrived and the first track only seems like two songs smashed together for the sake of continuity. Or maybe all that is true. I can only speculate as to the intent behind the songs' structures and the album's overall shape.

I do know, though, that I couldn't enjoy this record as much as I would have liked to due to the above.

And don't get me wrong, I had only limited love for their previous releases. They were harmless, toothless, and even in their best moments only echoed sentiments that other bands have already better expressed.

But despite the crowd they catered to, band members' apparent personalities, the buzz surrounding them, and their apparent reluctance to tread anything resembling new ground, I couldn't hear any falsity in the songs. Never did the songs themselves seem to be reaching for anything. They just were.

Maybe it only seemed like the production was restrained. Maybe it only seemed like the lyrics understood their own clichés and limitations. Maybe that wasn't actually a real vibraphone I heard here and there.

Or maybe it was, and that's why those records succeeded where this one failed. I'm fairly ambivalent about this release, but maybe I can sum it up by pointing to the record's strongest track: "Alley Cat." When you listen to it, just close your ears when the lyrics come dangerously close to Fall Out Boy territory, sighing "Through the day I'll prepare for the fight / With a fever on a Saturday night / 'Cause this is givin' me the shakes and the butterflies."

Just pretend they rented an opera hall. That isn't delay. Pretend he really sings like Cher. That's not Auto-Tune.

Just pretend a single one of the instruments droning in the background isn't digital.

You might really like what you hear.