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Review: ‘Beautiful Shadows’ By Australia Nomad Tom Woodward

Tom Woodward sleeps in a tent by a beach, which means his latest album 'Beautiful Shadows' is a unique, psych-folk, indie-pop mix you've likely never heard in your life.

Josh Helmuthby Josh Helmuth

To grasp Tom Woodward’s art, you need to not only understand where it comes from but where it is written.

One could argue thus is true in order to relate to any composition, but in Woodward’s case the connection is essential, especially with his latest work, Beautiful Shadows, coming out March 8.

Woodward is unabashed by his lifestyle and struggle to make it through each day without having to undergo the torment of “honest labour.” The Aussie is a nomadic soul who’s performed in bars, street corners and music halls since the early 2000s. He’s certainly a creative soul who isn’t afraid to experiment. After all it’s not often you come across a psychedelic folk, indie pop, singer-songwriter who teaches themselves music theory from discarded high school books and sleeps in a tea-tree-hidden tent above a beach. Add the fact that Woodward acknowledges he became “pathologically convinced” he only had six months to live before writing Beautiful Shadows, and one can then begin to see the album’s roots from which a giant tree grows.

According to Woodward, the album was written on buses, underneath trees, in spare rooms and on “wintry park benches.” Maybe that would explain why Beautiful Shadows sounds mostly like something out of a dystopian Australian-Seattle grunge scene.

Tracks like “Run Run Run,” and “Let It Fall” give me a Salad Fingers vibe.

“Shining All Over” is an eerie mix that takes me straight to Donnie Darko.

And “Black Hole In My Heart” is a poppier track which, still, gives me a Charlie Brown feel.

Most of the album truly is a beautiful shadow. It’s a unique mix of synth and acoustic guitar I’ve never heard before. With Woodward’s haggard voice and relatively dissonant composition, it’s also a ghostly mix that some, in the right moment, could find profound.

And while Woodward’s targeted demo may be a slim minority, it should be noted the man certainly has talent.

The album’s title track “Beautiful Shadows” and “My Way Or The Highway” both showcase some serious guitar chops and memorable lyrics that allow you to vividly picture the tears in Woodward’s eyes as he’s singing them. In my opinion, the latter of the two is the strongest song of the album. Not only does it have fantastic guitar, but it’s a folky break-up song that nearly anyone could relate with.

Woodward has a short-list of accolades with the Canberra Critics Circle Award For Contemporary Music and was listed for Young Australian Of The Year for contribution to arts & culture; the Aussie can certainly connect with an audience. However, Beautiful Shadows, although containing a unique post-modern arrangementis mostly a tortured soul with uninspiring progressions, lacking any crescendo.

It’s a rainy day. It’s depression. It’s disrepair.

If anything, hearing Woodward’s talent on the six string makes me curious what an acoustic-only album would sound like.

The average listener won’t really know what to make of Beautiful Shadows. Although it’s also obviously not for the average person. Considering Woodward is far from ordinary, I’m going to assume that’s just how he likes it.

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Josh Helmuth is an editor for Crave and a longtime music lover whose first record was Eric Clapton. However, his first concert? That choice he will take to the grave. 

Listen to Beautiful Shadows by Tom Woodward here.