Straight out of Palm Beach, Florida shoots the sure-as-shit contender for best album of this nascent new year, Surfer Blood’s Astro Coast. This is gonna be 2010’s Shins or Band of Horses, so mark these words. Yes, it may be a little early for such proclamations, but these boys make lofty postulations like this easy. It’s safe to assume the members of the band were raised on a steady diet of Weezer, The Pixies, Built To Spill, as well as various influences in the outer regions of indie rock. But they’ve managed to absorb all of this and more and regurgitate something all their own.
From the beginning chords of the album’s opening tune, “Floating Vibes,” the band makes its intent clear. Simple guitar lines augmented by bright and thick production will be employed, melodious and mellifluous vocals will ensue, and breezy themes of California dreams will occur. No tricks, no gimmicks will obscure the music (well, for the most part – “Take it Easy” tips its hat to Vampire Weekend, but only fleetingly). The song you’ve probably heard from this album already, “Swim,” a barrage of power chords and reverb-coated vocals ecstatically urging you to “Swim to reach the end,” is a great track, but it’s really not all that representative of the magic found on the rest of the record. “Harmonix,” after a brief guitar intro, builds into a restive number constructed sparingly of strummed harmonics (get it?) and yet another insanely catchy vocal refrain. “Twin Peaks,” as lush and expansive as anything else onAstro Coast, sports a nifty chorus of matching guitar chords and vocal melody before launching into a syncopated chorus that sounds more like a party than a songwriting convention. The record’s themes seem to revolve around personal experiences, references to band members’ relationships, and exploring the farther reaches of the United States. Yet the appeal of Surfer Blood’s music transports you right along, not an easy task for any band.
So how does this young band do it? Take a listen to “Anchorage” to fully understand what they are up to. A simple idea is made interesting through excellent recording and production – no shitgaze, this – and executed by an effusive bunch of rock musicians more concerned with quality than scoring scene points. They’ve got the chops to back up the hype, now let’s see how they handle their first year in the spotlight.