Mar 6 - 12, 2014 
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Cassette Release

The Genuine Article

AJ Woods proves folk-rock mettle

By Geoffrey Plant

AJ Woods
Courtesy of the artist
AJ Woods
There is a crop of younger folk-rock musicians in Albuquerque who stand out from the crowd thanks to genuinely interesting songwriting and talented performances, and AJ Woods' eponymous new album clearly places him in this cadre of musicians. Backed by stellar local folk band Wildewood, Woods delivers his melancholy lyrics about existence with a certain cadence that heightens the appeal of his well-crafted and unpretentious poetry. People generally describe his music as haunting, which is as good an adjective as any. Best of all, I can honestly say that this recording isn't boring; Woods really knows how to sing a song, and there isn't a dud in this batch of ecstatic dirges. When it comes down to it, Woods' style is reminiscent of Bill Callahan or Jason Molina, the suicide behind Songs: Ohia and Magnolia Electric Co.―whose music conveyed a confidence in one's mistakes, the sense that regret and failure are ordinary―while still sounding original and somehow very Albuquerque.

Following in The Saltine Ramblers' footsteps, Woods' album is a cassette release. I'm conflicted about this. On the one hand, cassettes are the cheapest analog format around, and musicians can frugally produce a product that arguably has more substance than the average independent CD release. Many are the times I've taken a chance on a cheap cassette being sold at a show, a chance I never would have taken on a more expensive record or CD version. Existing on the fringe of the music business and issued almost exclusively by weirdoes, cassettes are a low-risk format, and there is a lot to be said for that. Against all odds tapes are regaining popularity. There is, I kid you not, an International Cassette Store Day. The cynic in me appreciates that so much more than the preening, limited-edition, pants-peeing phenomenon we know as Record Store Day.

On the other hand, who the fuck has a tape player? If your 1988 Volvo still has one, odds are it's broken or has an irremovable Soundgarden cassette stuck in it. The percentage of the population with decks at home has to be next to none. Tapes don't wear well. They hiss. That said, this release is right at home on cassette for some reason, so let's just go with it. The recording, done at Synchro Studio, isn't the highest of fi in the first place, but the music transcends all that. It's a neat package with nice artwork and a download code. The tape I received is yellow, which pleases the hell out of the part of me that's nostalgic for the ROIR cassettes of the ’80s. On tape or downloaded via Bandcamp, you won't be disappointed. This guy's for real.

AJ Woods really knows how to sing a song, and there isn't a dud in this batch of ecstatic dirges.

Come celebrate this monument to obscurity at AJ Woods' tape release on Monday, March 10, at Separation Gallery (900 Fourth Street SW). Also on the bill are San Diego-based Labs and Seattle's Julie Byrne, whose prettily depressive oeuvre promises to be a highlight. Albuquerque songstress Javelina opens. Cover is $5, and the party starts at 7pm.

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