At a time when most pop-rock groups are dressing up their discs with electronic flourishes, over-modulated vocals and slick production, Sherwood have taken a decidedly different approach for their third full-length. That’s not to say the Southern California-based quintet weren’t guilty of this sort of studio trickery in the past, though. After all, infamous over-producer Lou Giordano helmed the band’s last release, 2007’s A Different Light, and turned Sherwood’s picture-perfect pop into a sterile mess of unnecessary sound effects and lifeless vocals. So on Qu, Sherwood have chosen the less-is-more approach and have stripped back the expansive production, instead choosing to let their hooks and harmonies do the talking.
Bursting with energy and renewed vigor and largely devoid of the dollop of studio shine that made A Different Light so stale, Qu is filled with the band’s trademark harmony-rich, sunshine-soaked pop songs. “Not Gonna Love” is bolstered by a driving bassline and steel drums, while “Ground Beneath My Feet” steers the band into new sonic territory, opening with twinkling piano before erupting into a spazzy dance-fest that eventually gives way to luminous four-part harmonies.
As a whole, Qu shows remarkable growth for a band just now hitting their stride. On “Free,” frontman Nate Henry’s soaring vocals proclaim, “Oh, to be free/We just want to be free,” and though he might not be talking about freedom from a faceless scene, the message still resonates. Indeed, with Qu, Sherwood have transcended the overcrowded pop-rock scene in favor of greener pop pastures.
Sherwood “Qu” (MSR10100 / 602527194349 / C12) Available 10.13.09