3 May 2016

Josh Woodward - Addressed To The Stars

I've been meaning to review a Josh Woodward album for quite a long time now but never seemed to get around to it. Now that he's recently released Addressed To The Stars, his twelfth proper album, it seems a good time to do so.

I first stumbled onto his music back in, I think, 2007 whilst trawling the internet for free music and found his album Not Quite Connected. I enjoyed that and looked for more. It turns out that Josh, (based in Cincinnati, Ohio if that's the sort of thing you need to know) offers all of his music free to download on his website. In addition to his numerous albums there are dozens of unreleased songs as well as instrumental versions of his albums too.
He records and plays everything himself and the whole things feels very much like a well executed hobby rather than a career. This gives his music a genuine and carefree feel. He makes the music he wants to make, free from restraint and outside influence. It's very refreshing.

So to Addressed to The Stars then. Like his previous albums, at it's core it's mostly acoustic, Indie/Folk music but with a few quirks along the way. Some of the songs show flashes of endearingly childish silliness and others are heartbreakingly sentimental. There's fourteen tracks but it's also just over 45 minutes long so none of them outstay their welcome.

Release is the first song on offer and it's a gentle introduction to the album. A soft ballad about a man realising he's a burden on the person he loves, being brave and letting them go. It's ultimately a positive thing I suppose but doesn't seem it!
The next song is Knock and is completely different. Still acoustic but much more upbeat and bouncy. It's a lighthearted song about self doubt and taking chances and I really like it. Following Knock is After The Flames which twists away in another direction; this time there's an 80's Synthpop vibe, Is it acceptable to use the word vibe these days? Anyway, it's an infectious little song with a simple but clever lyric video that you can view at your leisure at the bottom of this review.

My Favourite Regret is a ballad about two best friends, each in love with the other but never knowing their love is reciprocated. It features guest vocals from someone I'm not familiar with called Katie Pederson. To my ears, her voice sounds like a weird mix of Nashville Country twang and the Trad. Folk warbling of Kate Rusby. She fits alongside Josh's voice well and the song is a pretty, if bittersweet, one.
The pace is picked up next withe the enjoyably bouncy acoustic Pop of Perfect. It's sadly not a cover of the Fairground Attraction song but about loving someone because of their flaws not despite them. It's one of the more humourous songs on the album. Some of the 'flaws' listed are pretending a broom is a guitar, reading The Walking Dead spoilers and liking Hugh Grant films; All things I'm personally guilty of, though I'm reasonably certain it wasn't written with me in mind, It's beautifully singalong and one of the highlights of the album.

The Nest drops it down and is a gentle, melancholic song about being dumped. The baby bird that can't fly metaphor is a horrible but effective one. Poor little thing.  
Words Fall Apart is a short song, less than two minutes, that is Josh singing a sad lullaby over a stark piano melody. With A Whimper is a mid-paced Pop Rock song (with additional mandolin) about a relationship that slowly and uneventfully breaks down and the couple drift apart. Special mention must go the power ballad guitar solo halfway through and the imagery of the closing couplets:

"So this is the way that it ends.
A half-hearted promise to always be friends.
A glance at the floor, then you walk out the door to your life"

Josh with a guitar, earlier.
Bloom is another lyrically depressing song; this time about failed dreams. It's decent enough but it gets lost a little bit between the fuller sound of With a Whimper and the next song, Too Many Valleys. The song in question is, as I said, another of his rockier songs about our natural cynicism and reluctance to try new things.
Aimless is a gentle acoustic song about how we're all bumbling through without life with no real idea where we'll end up. Princess is a charming Celtic style Folk song, complete with accordion, banjo and gang vocals, about a little girl's imagination and play time. It has just the right amount of whimsy without descending into the painful world of twee. It's probably my favourite song on the album. It reminds me of Stop The Cavalry in places. Not that rom-pom-poppa-pom bit though,

Orbit is an acoustic song about two people drawn together in love. It's alright but following Princess it feels like a bit of a let down . Show Me bring the album to a close. It starts with a chugging bass, a snare and a looped piano line but eventually morphs into another Pop Rock song with another catchy chorus. This one's about love not just being about saying it but proving it as well. It's as odd a song to finish on as Release was to start with but it's a strong one too.

Addressed To The Stars is probably Josh's most cohesive collection of work and possibly his best album so far. Even the weaker tracks are still pretty good and there are no throwaway tracks snuck in there. I'm very confident Addressed To The Stars will be in my top 20 albums at the end of the year. Give it a listen and if you like it, investigate Josh's music further. It's not like you can argue at the price.

8 out of 10 - Oh, now you have my attention and maybe my money, time and heart

Best Track: Princess

Listen to Addressed To The Stars on Spotify HERE

Download/Buy a physical copy of Addressed To The Stars HERE
(You'll also find all his other stuff in the same place. Don't forget to look for Reject Bin and Unreleased Demos)

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