The basis of manifest destiny was an idea that through spiritual entitlement, the United States was fated to expand all the way west, until land met ocean. A destiny that ultimately proved to be very considerable was driven behind the notion that it was ‘meant to be’. For many, travelling west continues to bear significance simply because once you get to the west coast swing of California and I must imagine Oregon and Washington, everything feels a little bit different. Growing up on the east coast of the U.S., the San Francisco-based band Wooden Shjips grew a natural attraction to the other side of the spectrum and justly so, their latest album is simply titled West.
Although this heady talk about history bears little importance on the music’s expressions, it’s a comparison to what many say is a fascination to the west. For West the themes are divulged with sounds that bear an engrossing, massive sound buried deep in the soul of the album. Where previous albums were progressive ventures that were purely titled Volume One and Dos, for example, West relies on the band’s stance on what the west inspires. Songs continuously morph within the scope of the album and through a steady involvement of pounding drums, thunderous guitars and a solid influence of psychedelia, West bristles with typical San Francisco fever.
Muscular and lean, the album is a forceful, seven song set of strong rock. Songs like “Home” beguile with a stomping drummer and a droning sound of reverb and atmospherics. While the pulse of the percussion creaks in and out, the music’s focus relies on terrifically-constructed songs. “Looking Out” ties in a whirlwind of reverb and a melodic organ around the repetition of driving drums. With songs that could easily be mistaken for being decades old, West’s production provides a sense of grit and grime. Where the drums are allowed to relentlessly travel on, there’s more than enough clamored in the wall of sounds to get lost in.
With the recognition that psychedelic flurries are bound to be plenty and often, the band also reveals a rapidly energetic side with Queens of the Stone Age-like boasters, like on “Lazy Bones.” Surrounded with the guitar’s grinding melody there’s always a tendency for the beats to push forward. Honorably so, the songs are complimented with tremendous fills and tenacity. Even where the percussion is almost non-existent – like on the album’s closing moments of visionary warbles and effects on “Rising” – the movements always promenade forward with stunning ease.
A lot of the subtleties in the music can only be spotted with repeated listens and it fittingly rewards with each one. The magic of Wooden Shjips’ music comes through the exploration in arriving to the album’s closing moments, instead of how it all starts. West ties in all of the band’s strengths for an excellent outlook on what the destiny towards west might feel like and with it, an album of stellar psychedelic rock.