When Jeremy Earl left Brooklyn for the tiny upstate town where he grew up – Warwick, New York, a rural, rail-side area best known for its annual Applefest – a few years ago, his decision wasn’t surprising so much as long overdue. And not just because dude’s the founder of a ramshackle rock band called Woods and a lo-fi-leaning label that goes by the name Woodsist. Forestry nods aside, Earl has always seemed like a hippie who’s constantly lumped in with “hipsters” – a soft-spoken Neil Young fan who’d rather hang out with his cat, a considerable wooden owl collection, and a freshly packed bong than a poorly ventilated house full of cool kids.
More important, however, is his musical vision, which has long hinted at but lurked just below the level of psych-steeped greatness that’s achieved on Bend Beyond. Led by Earl’s lovelorn falsetto and loose, fiery riffs, Woods’ seventh album offsets its tales of frustration (lots of “it’s so fucking hard” talk) with red-blooded arrangements and a clean mix that brings the frontman’s hooks right into focus. It helps that the well-oiled quartet saved their jam-band tendencies for the stage and let their individual parts shine at the same time instead, from the rambunctious organ rolls and roaring guitar leads of “Find Them Empty” to the curve-hugging rhythm section of the title track. It’s inviting enough to make us big city folks briefly ponder our own move to Deliverance-town, USA Well – almost.