Woodes – ‘Crystal Ball’ review: pop fantasias that embrace the magic of the everyday

On her debut album, Elle Graham lets her imagination run free

Every song Elle Graham has released as Woodes has revealed a bigger slice of ambition and hinted at a wider story to get lost in, from 2016 indie dance anthem ‘The Thaw’ to ‘Bonfire’, a shimmering pop-infused set-up for her lush, atmospheric ‘Golden Hour EP’. And now, on debut album ‘Crystal Ball’, the Melbourne-based singer has thrown down the drawbridge to invite you into a fantastical world of escape and beauty.

If you’ve been following Woodes’ journey for a while, you’ll be familiar with the indie pop that she creates and there’s nothing on ‘Crystal Ball’ that strays too far from that paintbox. But while her ‘Golden Hour’ EP offered a tantalising glimpse of the theatre that she was capable of conjuring, ‘Crystal Ball’ gives Woodes the space she needs to really show off. From handclap-driven opener ‘How Long I’d Wait’, soaring and full of giddy hope, to the closing fury of ‘Waterfall’, Woodes’ debut album is full of transportative magic.

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At times ‘Crystal Ball’ feels like a coming of age record, offering answers and resolution, while other tracks indulge in the joy of the now. It all feels like a giddy adventure, though, and with Woodes’ descriptive poetry at the very heart of the album, it’s impossible not to get caught up in the chase. After all, this is a fantasia – that much is clear from the album art, which depicts Woodes as a knight in a suit of armour, and the title ‘Crystal Ball’; the title track features an instrumental section that sounds like wizards duelling.‘Queen of The Night’ talks of a “land of never-never” and “the Sand-Man”, while the fractured flight of ‘Dancing In The Rain’ starts “when the darkness falls over the walls outside my kingdom”. It gives the whole thing a wonderful sense of playfulness and amplifies the escapist nature of Woodes’ songwriting.

‘Crystal Ball’ doesn’t just only play make-believe though, as the second half of the record is full of magic of the everyday. ‘Euphoria’ celebrates the brilliance of falling in love, while ‘Staring At The Fire’ is a nostalgic, But considered, piano-driven track that sees Woodes missing that human connection. It feels even more potent with the world as it is right now, especially following the fraught soundscape of ‘Distant Places’ (a co-write with frequent Sigur Ros producer Alex Somers). Elsewhere the emo-tinged optimism of ‘This Is My Year’ talks of self-improvement and the failed promise of New Year’s that everyone faces year on year. It doesn’t matter how fanciful your imagination, there’s no escaping love or wanting a #NewYearNewMe.

Even within a cinematic album of otherworldly escape, Woodes still manages to create a powerfully intimate record that tackles both life and fantasy with a fierce resolve.

Details

Woodes Crystal Ball album
  • Release date: November 13
  • Record label: Believe Digital
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