Since the Northwoods started making waves around town last year, it's been nearly impossible to mention the acoustic duo's name without also hearing the words "Simon" and "Garfunkel." However, while Paul and Artie more or less wrote the blueprint for close-harmony folk rock, the members of the Northwoods are much more interested in sun-dappled, finger-picked pastoral folk than they are S&G's sturm und drang. On Morning, Noon & Night, Elijah Palnik and Jeremy Shanas rely on acoustic guitar, mandolin and light percussion and use the interplay of their voices and warm sonic textures to create breezy, inviting tunes.
Music like this doesn't win many points for being inventive or game-changing; it succeeds on solid songwriting, intricate harmonies and note-perfect playing. (If you disagree, look no further than the popularity of Iron & Wine and Fleet Foxes.) To that end, the Northwoods are successful at writing varied tunes that hew pretty closely to the format, be it with the slow-burning "Words to Bring Me Home" or the shuffling, hypnotic "Maybe Just Age." Of course, such sonic sweetness always carries the risk of cavities, and Northwoods veers toward the saccharine with the all-are-one sing-along "Tree." But once you step over the wide-eyed earnestness (and the Jack Johnson rip-off "Shirley"), it's smooth sailing. Night's harmonies and melodies aim for the heart — and more often than not, they hit the target.
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