Review: Surfer Blood - "Astro Coast"
I LOOOOVE me some good pop, and Florida's Surfer Blood give me better than that on their debut album, Astro Coast. Recorded in dorm rooms and produced, mixed, and engineered by themselves (mainly lead-guy John Paul Pitts), Astro Coast sounds WAY bigger than it should.
It's DIY, it's purposefully sloppy at points, and it's not necessarily 'hip' (I also LOOOOVE things that aren't 'cool'). These dudes just made some tunes amidst screwing around and being young. They're not breaking any new ground here, but they are taking some cues from classic indie albums and making them their own. It's hard to not hear Sonic Youth, Pavement, Dinosaur Jr., Weezer, and even some new indie giants like Vampire Weekend and Japandroids (Surfer Blood first toured with the latter). Add in some humidity, blazing Florida sun, beach bum/slacker lifestyle with all those excellent influences... and we have a winner!
The African-influenced breakdowns throughout the album (about the hippest thing in indie music right now) are the low points for me. The worst of these occurs at the beginning of "Take It Easy," but the band somehow manages to take it to a dance-y groove thing for the hook and make it work. Now don't get me wrong, I love world music more than most, but with most of these indie bands it just sounds contrived. Who knows, maybe these kids are listening to Fela Kuti and Amadou & Mariam, but it's hard not to assume they're just cutting and pasting stylistically because it's trendy.
All that aside, Surfer Blood expand on the more noisy and experimental ideas of Japandroid's Post-Nothing and let them EXPLODE into unabashed pop anthems. They let the reverb drown out any technical shortcomings they might have had with recording vocals. They let the buzz of their amps shimmer through the dull but full drum tracks. These days, one usually can't tell what kind of guitar and amp are used on an album. And while we may not be able to discern the EXACT make and model here, we can hear very clearly that Surfer Blood are not out to make us think their amps sound better than they actually do.
Released in January, I knew IMMEDIATELY that Surfer Blood would be the first 2010 album to make my top 10 list of the year. I'm hard pressed to think of anything I've felt this way about since Weezer's Blue Album, humming the guitar solos rather than the tune of the vocals. As a matter of fact, this is the music that I wish Weezer was still making. Sadly, I'm pretty sure those days are gone. Thank heavens Surfer Blood swooped in and grabbed the torch, because this album is totally rad, bro.