Have you ever had to write something and not know how to start? This is one of these moments for me; I am now on my fifth draft of this review of Surfer Blood’s “Astro Coast” (19 January 2010 in the USA) and really have no clue how I can write this to really let you know that I have been so blown away, that I have had my own little orgiastic experience while listening. Are these youngsters the next great virtuosos? Perhaps, but they have not demonstrated it on their debut. Are we going to have to redefine music and come up with new labels to define this album? Nah, unless you really are in the business of fabricating labels, of which we have too many. Are you going to listen to some great music? Absolutely! We can conjecture here everything a band needs to be successful, but the reality is that what a band needs to be able to do more than anything else is write good music. And these youngsters from West Palm Beach (Brian Black, Thomas Fekerte, JP Pitts, and TJ Schwarz) know how to put a kick-ass song together that is infectious and haunting. Not only can they do it once, but they did it ten times on one album. I am going to try and avoid saying, “Listen to this album now, it may just be one of the best albums of 2010.”
The album opens with “Floating Vibes,” and it reminds you of the opening by any veteran band that knows how to draw you into the experience. A simple song, that really demonstrates a sound pop sensibility hidden behind lightly affected guitars, but the almost 60s feel of the song permeates right through. What catches your attention right away is the vocal arrangement intertwined with the keys (the band brings Marcos Marchesani on the road on keyboards and percussion). The album is sandwiched between this and the oxymoronic “Catholic Pagan.” Beautiful string arrangement that gives away to power chords in the chorus, the song really shows that Surfer Blood is more than their typical 90s influences. The band definitely has more vision than their American 90s “alterna-rock/alterna-pop” influences. Dare I say, there is a bit of shoegaze in them.
Two tracks really arrested me – and have been on repeat for a few hours. The first is “Harmonix.” Have you ever heard the argument about pornography? The “I can’t define it, but I know it when I see it.” Okay, well it is sort of the same kind of logic. I don’t always know what makes a song good, but I know a good song when I hear it – and this is a friggin’ great song. It is alluringly mysterious, as the song flows through various different soundscapes. Here is another comparison that may be obscene to a few – think of the disco song “Supernature” (the original version by Cerrone); this song packs the kind of subtle power that it does. Then there is “Fast Jabroni.” There is a bit of new wave to this one, with a distorted surfer rock feel. Though the soundscape is more constant in this one, this is one of those thriving songs that you immediately start to imagine live. With much of the album (and knowing there is a keyboardist live), one is left to imagine just how raw the power is live, considering that the album oozes both sonic and visceral power beginning to end.
Though I have to admit that I had some fear about when bands started to reference to the nineties for musical cues, especially when they started references Britpop and American alternative, Surfer Blood has put some of those fears to rest. Devoid of rehash or revival mentality, “Astro Coast” zips through beginning to end, always changing intensity, with small inflections of style, but always with a signature sound. As far as debuts go, this is one of the best I have heard in the past few months. As far as indie rock goes, Surfer Blood may just have put West Palm Beach on the map. Okay, I am no longer going to avoid it: Listen to this album now! It may just be one of the best albums of 2010!
1. Floating Vibes
3. Take It Easy
5. Neighbour Riffs
6. Twin Peaks
7. Fast Jabroni
8. Slow Jabroni
10. Catholic Pagans
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