WOOL is an album of ballads and lullabies, all lushly orchestrated with strange instruments and rich voices. The songs are soft and yet scratchy, simple and yet complex. The lyrics are as economical as the words in children's stories, as emotional as journal entries, as deep as the Bible. Such as in the song "Bicycle":
"There is a bicycle
that two crows ride
and they carry the moon across the sky.
That is a lie
the moon is a pie
thrown long ago in a clown fight.
That isn't true
it's a hole in the roof
of our mason jar so we can breathe."
Almost all the songs have simple one-word titles and every song is at first very comprehendible. And yet the deeper you look into any one moment, the more complex everything gets, like an old bar where the photos are caked with soot, and beneath the soot is a memory, and beneath the memory is the kind of textured wallpaper that nobody has the time or money to put on walls anymore.
The album was started in December 2006 on a piano that used to belong to Elliott Smith. Nick was the last person to play on it before it was sold to a museum in Seattle, where at best it is now being pretend-played by animatronic rock-stars, and at worst it is sitting in a back closet getting dusty. After that piano was gone, one song had to be recorded on an old jazz piano in Finland while Nick was on tour there. The other instruments were added in waves... Jason Leonard clanged on glockenspiels and silver bowls in a bright white studio where vintage posters are restored. Violin and percussion were added in a friend's house while the friend was in Mexico. Nick recorded the vocals in his own kitchen, refrigerator unplugged so as to be quiet, food slowly spoiling.