V. is indeed the fifth album from Portland-based garage-psych quartet Wooden Shjips, but as the cover art indicates, its title is also meant to resemble a two-finger peace sign. In reaction to the political climate as well as natural disasters, such as a forest fire which occurred outside of Portland, the group decided to make a peaceful, positive album in order to quell unrest and anxiety. The result isn't a major departure from what fans of the Shjips have come to expect, as the group will seemingly always stick to a surging, hypnotic brand of Krautrock-inspired minimalism. This time out, however, their sense of optimism is undeniable. Their playing is energetic and in good spirits, and most importantly, their positivity never sounds forced or unnatural. They're not acting like clowns and forcing anyone to smile, and they never sound too eager to please. They're simply having a good time and making relaxed, not-too-heavy boogie rock fit for a summer gathering or a road trip through the desert. Opener "Eclipse" has fast drums and horns which point toward a Northern soul influence, along with the group's usual swirling keyboards and echo-covered vocals resembling a tamer Alan Vega. "In the Fall" is significantly slower and has more of a churn to it, but it still sounds pleasantly dazed. "Red Line" plays with reversed guitars and vocal effects, which enhance the easygoing rhythm rather than derail it. "Staring at the Sun" seems to echo classic rock more than the rest of the songs here (you can easily sing "For What It's Worth" over it, but it's not a direct copy), and its lyrics make reference to the Portland-area forest fire without existing in a state of panic. "Ride On" serves as a slow, hazy, gentle comedown to this relaxing album of peaceful protest music. ~ Paul Simpson

Related products