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Monday, May 2, 2016

Woodpecker's 'Thanks Anyway': A quality record inside and out

Wednesday, September 5, 2012

While you may not be able to judge an album by its cover, the eye-catching art of Woodpecker's "Thanks Anyway" does not end in disappointment. What lies within is a great sounding folk record.

Music Critic

Purists will tell you the age of the great album cover is gone.

Gone is the creativity of a "Sticky Fingers" or a "Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band" or "Dark Side of the Moon."

A big part of the problem is simply logistics. While convenient in every other way, the packaging for a 4.7-inch CD doesn't provide the canvas of a 12-inch dimension.

None of this supposes the entirely digital format of the MP3.

But, really, what good is this discussion? Can we really judge an album by its cover?

No, but can an eye-catching album cover give us a clue as to the thought-provoking music contained within?

Dozens of examples point to yes.

And so it is with "Thanks Anyway," an summer release from Brooklyn six-piece Woodpecker.

The first impression of the album is its cover: two formally-dressed hands reaching out of the water, seen through a porthole.

Open the cover and you get a similar scene: two sets of feet sticking out of the water.

After the CD is removed, it gets downright commical as two paws -- one feline and one canine -- reach out of the water in vain.

The mix of sadness and comedy underscores the music that lies within.

The mournful sound of the string vocals and string music are offset by the strong impression that this is a group of guys just having a good time making music.

The record kicks off in good form with the rousing "Every Boy in NY," an strong piece to start an album.

"Married to the Movies" starts off as a simple piece featuring the acoustic hallmarks of the band -- guitar, banjo, mandolin, cello, fiddle. At the end, though, it gets fun (and a bit silly) with the sounds of screaming, apparently at the hands of the vampires, piranhas, zombies and nefarious aliens mentioned earlier in the song.

At a time of 5:21, "Paperbacks with Paragraphs Underlined" is the longest and probably most beautiful track on the album.

When the song speaks of the competing lullubies of the ICU of "Please don't leave me this way" and "I know you can't stay. It's OK," it speaks emotions so many of us have felt when dealing with death and loss, but have been unable to express.

Isn't that what we hope for from a good song?

My spin: B

While the artistry of the cover of "Thanks Anyway" has gotten a moderate amount of attention, we can only hope it has drawn critics and fans alike to what lies within: a thoughtful, understated, beautiful piece of music that deserves our attention.

The simple sound and musicianship of the band is enough to make it an enjoyable listen, but the songwriting takes it over the top.

Find the album online at the iTunes store and amazon.com.