Review: Tom Woodward "Beautiful Shadows"

Review: Tom Woodward “Beautiful Shadows”

Subtle and understated, Australian psych folk musician Tom Woodward has released one of the quietest masterpieces of the year. The upcoming Beautiful Shadows, a collection of dark, somber tunes in the vein of Leonard Cohen and The Talking Heads, is a cohesive, well-executed look into the life of the Tura Beach, Australian’s psyche. Having penned all of the lyrics himself, it’s evident that Woodward’s tunes are brutally personal and display his vulnerabilities. The melancholy is in full effect here, folks.

The catchy, melodic chirping of “white roses” shows Woodward dancing in piano land, but don’t let that give you the wrong idea. Most of the material here is altogether heavy, particularly when you understand the artistic process that led to Beautiful Shadows‘ creation. Early into the album process, Woodward experienced an irrational, unfounded thought in 2014 that he only had six months left to live. He packed up, went across the world, and wrote many of the songs that would appear on Shadows. A couple years later and still alive, Woodward now finds himself with a musical time capsule of his tortured mind, culminating in one hell of a word of art.

“I’m probably just insane,” he sings on “let it fall”, but you have to applaud his efforts. Even in a moment of weakness, Woodward managed to channel a hugely frightening thought process and filter it into a creative outlet that both entertains and serves as an articulation of the human soul.

Sonically, we have elements of indie pop infused with some low key psych and a modern, updated vantage of folk singer-songwriter qualities all sneaking their ways into Beautiful Shadows. Comparisons to the likes of PJ Harvey and Lucinda Williams are not off base, evident in Woodward’s sharp focus on eerie, introverted and personal lyrics. There is some beautiful playing here on both piano and guitar, but even in his softness, Woodward’s voice takes center stage here, singing out anthems of the human spirit.

Opening track “run run run” sets the tone with an indie electronica overtone, but soon we hear Woodward settle into his woodsy, folky vibes. Early on the record, his voice wavers like young David Byrne, but as the album progresses, he asserts himself more and more. By the time we get to title track “beautiful shadows”, he’s at his most intimate, providing solace, perhaps to himself, but also to the listener.

Woodward is well known for his earnest DIY beginnings, performing in bard, busking on the street, and pounding the pavement at small venues. With some polished tunes under his belt, his career has taken off, with tours booked throughout Japan and North America as well as appearing at festivals in his native Australia, Woodward was also the recipient of the Canberra Critics Circle Award for Contemporary Music. Surely we haven’t seen the last of this guy.

Listen below to Tom Woodward’s “Beautiful Shadows”, the title track from the upcoming Beautiful Shadows LP, ahead of its March 8 release, courtesy of Tom Woodward’s SoundCloud page. Be sure to check out Tom Woodward on Facebook and Bandcamp.