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The Deep Dark Woods

Jubilee – 2013 (Sugar Hill)

Reviewed by Lee Zimmerman

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CDs by The Deep Dark Woods

For all the mystique implied in their name, The Deep Dark Woods have never delved into swampier realms, preferring instead to emphasize the breezy melodies and the soothing harmonies that distinguish the Americana kin. However five albums on, they've ventured a bit afield of their comfort zone and chosen to substitute a decidedly forlorn sound for the genial autumnal bliss that characterzed their earlier endeavors.

Consequently, "Jubilee" doesn't come close to the exuberant sound its title might imply. Despite the winsome sway of a song like Gonna Have a Jubilee (natch), the heads down stomp of 18th of December and the dramatic sweep of Miles and Miles, the band opts mostly for wearier refrains and a mournful approach worthy of heartache and heartbreak. They wear their emotions on a collective sleeve; when, on Pacing the Room, they croon "I'll eat when I'm hungry/And I'll drink when I'm dry/I'll try not to weep or to cry," it's fairly clear which of their sentiments are lingering closest to the surface.

Still, drama and despair only go so far, and ultimately this "Jubilee" becomes increasingly more joyless in its endless procession of moribund laments. Given no respite save the assertive stance of Bourbon Street, the second half of the album seems to drift off aimlessly, the result of indifference or hopelessness, or both. And it's that lack of momentum that mires the album in a kind of melancholy rut in which they're apparently willing to reside. One can only hope that the next time around they regain their lustre and make an album that opts for celebration over rumination.