Woodsist has carved out a nice little niche for itself since Jeremy Earl, frontman of the psych-folk band Woods, started the once Brooklyn-based operation in 2006. Since being able to claim responsibility for early releases from Vivian Girls and Wavves two years ago, its popularity has skyrocketed, making it one of the definitive labels of the Brooklyn scene, despite the fact that Earl now runs the label out of his home upstate and signs a lot of bands from the West Coast. Woodsist has built a name that critics and fans have come to trust as tastemaking, making Welcome Home | Diggin' the Universe, a cassette-and-vinyl-only compilation of bands from their roster, a love letter to the fuzzed-out sound that the label champions but, also, a time capsule of a certain time and a certain place (assuming someone is able to find a tape deck or record player in the future).
It's no secret that Woodsist has been a prime player in the lo-fi resurgence, with every one of their artists nodding to the days when bands sounded like this because they had to, not because they wanted to. Whether or not it's your thing, it's hard to deny that the gritty, warts-and-all aesthetic can also translate into a warm, organic, intimate sound, as Welcome Home's lead track, Woods' "I'm Not Gone," proves. With dueling acoustic guitars and an effortless back-porch vibe, it's one of the breezier, happier tracks from a band also known for psychedelic freak-outs and jams.
The label's 60s-indebted psych, garage and pop reference points come in spades, though here they're not limiting influences, but ones that are expanded, explored, colored, recycled, mangled and reinvented to varying degrees. White Fence's "The Love Between" is a zonked-out stoner; The Fresh & Onlys' "Heel. Toe" perfects the Zombies-esque steady-handed pop; the now-defunct Cause Co-Motion's "Over You" lays beachy steel guitars on top of classic garage rock; and Ducktails' instrumental jam, "Sun Out My Window," sounds like the lo-fi version of music playing from a jewelry box. For all but one track ("The Love Between") being exclusive to the comp, not to mention the inclusion of two cover songs (City Center's take on the Dead's "Box of Rain" and the Skygreen Leopards doing "Catch" by the Cure), there's not a lot of fat. Listening to the strength of selections in a continuous stream cements Woodsist's place as architects of a sound that seems to be sticking around for a while. In 1992, Laura Ballance and Mac McCaughan probably never thought Merge would have a band headlining two nights at Madison Square Garden. Just sayin'.