Sherwood – “Qu”

Sherwood doesn’t make any bones about it. They make modern sunny pop music that owes a heavy California edge to bands like The Beach Boys.

As though the indie-rock act wasn’t already indebted enough to such surf-pop influences on their first two LPs, the new album Qu ups the ante by using the new album to examine their generation’s apathy and whether today’s music fans and musicians have what it takes to make a ‘grand musical statement’ about profound experiences we have shared.

No, this isn’t a rock opera or some ridiculous over-the-top message album. Sherwood on Qu is simply more of what we’ve come to expect from a band well rooted in its influences and pop sensibilities. That’s among the biggest reasons the album winds up being as ultimately successful as it is. Despite the oddly placed opening intro, which could have been better integrated into the first song, the opening one-two-three of “Hit The Bottom,” “Not Gonna Love” and “Maybe This Time” perfectly set the stage for what could have been the perfect summer album had it been released a couple months prior.

The band doesn’t let up from there, merging into the sunny background harmonies of “Make It Through,” which has one of the album’s best hooks, coming closest to encapsulating the sound they so loved from the Beach Boys. “I can’t find where I belong without you,” Nate Henry sings, and that’s really the message that shines through the full album. The grand statement they latch onto is that if we haven’t shared some huge generational experience we should sing about what we know, and clearly what Henry and company know is how to craft sunny pop songs about their lives … and in turn our lives.

The perfect centerpiece is the duet “Worn,” which brings together our generation with generations past, an ear-catching melody worthy of the likes of Caedmon’s Call back during the Derek Webb era. “You always come home to those empty rooms and wonder what’s left to lose, folding sheets ‘cause you can never stop,” sings guest vocalist Molly Jenson, beautifully evoking the feelings of a tired who feels she’s already left her best days behind her without accomplishing anything of worth. It’s not hard to hear, below the surface, the same fears coming from those of our generation.

The album says a lot in a short amount of time, without beating listeners over the head with the musicians’ ideas. It’s only upon repeated listens that some of the sunny glistening pop shifts aside enough for the lyrics to be heard in more than their most basic sense. Once that happens, however, it becomes possible to hear Qu as more than just 2009’s best fall pop gem.

The album stands as a testament to a statement the band may have made best by accident on their MySpace blog. “Have we … experienced something so moving or tragic like previous generations to warrant an artist that encapsulates our feelings?” asks Henry. “I will just say that as a band we are at least trying and spending everyday to retell the stories we as members experience and feel daily.” In turn, the band truly has constructed an album which is a grand statement because it touches, as they aimed, on heartbreak, apathy, perserverance, love, war, risk, aging, death, divorce and hope.

Sherwood has crafted an album which speaks to even the most jaded in their generation because it is, above all, honest. It’s a lesson many of their contemporaries could stand to learn – that sometimes the best albums come from just being true to yourself, not in worrying what history’s going to say about anything. In that regard, Sherwood’s Qu is one of the more satisfying youth-oriented pop albums to come out in years, and it’s more than worthy of the attention it is going to receive.

Reprinted with permission from Stereo Subversion.

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