|Album Review: Donovan Woods—Without People|
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These days, every new album is born within some form of isolation, and Donovan Woods’ Without People embraces that reality.
Toronto-Nashville based Woods kept on going when the world shut down, piecing together this album at his studio and working remotely with far away collaborators. At the beginning is “Last Time I Saw You” which narrates the heartbreak of someone slipping into the past. Next comes “Seeing Other People”, which is feeling delayed pain after the dust settles. Woods' position of being alone, whether literally or just in his thoughts, is a relatable feeling. Without People carries recognizable emotions driven by that isolation. Those which we’ve felt before and will feel again, like admitting you're a mess and she's a masterpiece in “She Waits For Me to Come Back Down.” Or realizing you’re losing the spark in “We Used To” and wanting something that never loses that spark in “Clean Slate."
These tracks are Woods' standard soul-baring alt-folk but he clearly had fun experimenting. Electric guitar, soaring strings, and haunting harmonies are an evolution from Woods’ acoustic-led albums and elements he's been incorporating more of in his latest releases. Softer moments lead into strong chord-heavy highs and back again. But it's the songwriting that sets the stage. Woods consistently tells the truth - as heard in autobiographical stories from his very first EP until now. An example is standout “Lonely People” which appreciates that which binds everyone together. “Grew Apart” takes the high road but isn’t happy about it. “Man Made Lake” shatters childhood perspectives, and “Whole Way Home" is the frustration of miscommunication.
Amidst the loneliness, by the end, you realize that togetherness is the true theme at play here. Easter eggs in the opener “Without People” and midpoint "Interlude" appear as the soft hum of people mingling. It closes with "Whatever Keeps You Going", establishing that all of us are just doing what we can to move forward while we experience the same loneliness, isolation, and frustration. Contrary to it's name, Without People actually works to bring us together.
Photo Credit: Maya Fuhr