The Ohio native’s work has been featured on Audiosurf multiple times. This time, the tracks are from his 2009 cut Sunny Side of the Street. Woodward considers it a bonus companion to his album Crawford Street, as it contains “songs that were too fun and dorky to fit in with the main CD.”
Songs that were too fun and dorky? Sign me up!
“Jasmine, you are the sweetest tea.” So starts the chorus of “Fast Food Fantasy.” This story-song places Woodward in a McDonald’s, shocked into songwriting by the beauty of the girl behind the counter. Even as he basks in her existence, he cannot escape the all-encompassing grasp of McDonald’s branding. Her Flurries are outstanding. He orders some Chicken McNuggets, considers buying her a Happy Meal, and weighs the option to Supersize. The branded lyrical content’s off-putting until you take a step back and consider it as an extremely accurate description of the song’s setting. To enter McDonald’s is to be bombarded by trademarked words and phrases and their accompanying food items. In Woodward’s case, he is also bombarded by this young woman’s whole demeanor. Beneath the layer of McDonald’s language is his account of a very true experience: the way a beautiful stranger can just knock you on your proverbial ass, no matter where you are. “Fast Food Fantasy” surfs well. Constant little changes in the track keep things interesting, and pumping electric guitar closes the song strongly.
I expected “She’s On My Mind” to follow the same basic blueprint of “Fast Food Fantasy” – perhaps with a little less corporate jargon. It starts out innocent enough: Woodward gazes upon a woman while a bluesy cha cha rolls off his guitar. He hits the word “beer” awkwardly and my eyes perk up. Then he ends the first stanza “Especially when she leaves the blinds open.” We’ve got a stalker here, folks. The chorus closes “I’m blow past her window as she sleeps/She is always on my mind.” Woodward pushes it further into camp in the next verse with talk of phone taps, Internet searches, and the realization: “I forget that we just haven’t met yet.” He’s channeling Stephen Lynch, but he’s playing it straighter. The chorus, in particular, sells the genuine creep factor by foregoing the funky Latin beat and barreling ahead as hard rock. No one will mistake this one for non-fiction, but it’s fun to hear Woodward so fully embrace a character.
Take one Amos Lee. Mix in one or two Barenaked Ladies to taste. Add a dash of Whimsy. Voila! “Brown Boxes.” Woodward sounds good in his lower register. He can throw lyrics away without it sounding whiny. He can wrap his dulcet tones around a particular resonant note and savor it. He should do this more often. Being reminiscent of Amos Lee is never a bad thing, especially when it spawns catchy guitar riffs like the one driving this song. Woodward’s lyrics veer into Ladies territory when he crams just a few too many syllables in a line about all the stuff he’s got piled in his living room. When there are that many words, it’s hard to get to the singing. A Steep tag keeps the track lively and bouncing throughout, so quell your fears of a softer acoustic song boring you. In fact, why don’t you just play this song so you can stop worrying?
I half expected “Up Kilkenny” to be brimming with South Park references. Not so. “Up Kilkenny” is Woodward’s earnest attempt at a rousing Irish sports song. He sings of hurling, a brutal Gaelic sport akin to lacrosse, and of the celebrations surrounding a local team’s win. I kept waiting for the twist in this one, but it never came. That’s sort of refreshing. This track wouldn’t be out of place in any Irish pub – except ones where they notice where the guy singing the Irish song doesn’t sound Irish at all. And because I always find myself discussing Woodward’s voice – with alternating critique and praise – I must mention the weird bleating sound he has when he sings “flag.” Is he trying to emulate a flag’s flapping in the wind? It just sounds so odd. Portions of the ride will have you climbing up a logarithmic Kilkenny of your own, only to be hurtled downward through substantial traffic. It was almost like the music was cheering me on.
All songs were played using the Eraser character on the Pro difficulty.
Not everyone loved the use of McDonald’s paraphernalia in “Fast Food Fantasy.” Onetrueboo said, “It was cute, but…a McDonald’s advertisement(?)” Skiddlywibble wrote, “Being set in MacDonalds makes this song loose some lustre [sic].” The rest of the crowd seemed bowled over by the cuteness – or maybe that was just a food coma.