Surfer Blood
Astro Coast


4.0
excellent

Review

by Lewis P. STAFF
January 26th, 2010 | 86 replies


Release Date: 2010 | Tracklist

Review Summary: Astro Coast sounds like an honest representation of four gifted songwriters writing what they know and how they know it. Sounds pretty good.

Surfer Blood open their album thusly: “Forget the second coming / I need you in the here and now / instead of dreamin’ up a way to spread your name / across the world somehow.” Kind of regressive thinking, isn’t it? Putting aside the insistence on nostalgia-tinged genres that flourished within certain critical circles, didn’t we spend a good chunk of last year getting to know fresh-faced youths eager to blow this popsicle stand, live a life post nothing? The greatest city-in-the-rearview anthem of the year was called “The Boys Are Leaving Town” by Japandroids, garage rock by two guys that pummeled like fifty, so full of potential were they. Sustained a whole album on that fervor alone. Wavves wanted it, Cymbals Eat Guitars scored it, Girls-- well, they wanted sex and maybe that old life, but leaving town might have been beneficial. So much attention to the thought of a better future that for those of us willing ourselves to leave town and are forced to stay (by the natural conventions of life that function before these songs existed and after they’re digitally erased) find the sentiment downright depressing: where’s the kid that understands what it means to stay?

The vibe Astro Coast is going for will sound familiar to anyone who has padded out his music collection with the more easily recognizable mid-90s era indie rock (Pavement, Built to Spill, some easy Weezer comparisons), but its slick production blankets detailed layering, memorable vocal/music dynamics, and a humble intelligence smartly sidelined in lieu of a riff-laden gold-mine. It recalls the paranoid spark of Modest Mouse, the subtle production tricks that draw out the melody at its core, creating substance where the band could easily ride on what’s so noticeably fun. Singer John Paul Pitts paints a picture of that teenage life we seem to dread living through but miss when it’s gone; the upside here being Astro Coast is set on defining the very age it’s celebrating. All nods to classic material or recent fads are bits of inspired affectations that stand out in the more obvious of ways: the breathless Lilys structure to opener “Floating Vibes”; afro-beats on “Take it Easy”; distorted wordplay that would impress Isaac Brock on “Slow Jabroni” (not to mention its twee-bent companion “Fast Jabroni”). Otherwise, Astro Coast sounds like an honest representation of four gifted songwriters writing what they know and how they know it. What they know is a refreshing change of pace for the indie rock narrative: an extrovert letting you know he hates this town too, yet he still has fun with you.

From the opening bars of “Floating Vibes”, Surfer Blood’s surfer rock feels of-the-moment. Its knowing advice (“If you’re moving out to the west / then you better learn how to surf”; “If you’re going to do then do it / otherwise you just might lose your nerve”) speak of universal truth, regardless of age. The muscular group chanting and deceptive forward momentum of its two-chord guitar lead on first single “Swim” bely the age necessary to blare the car stereo: I dare all to stay immune to one of the album’s more prophetic declarations (and catchiest): “SWIM! TO REACH THE END!” A budding relationship, a flurry of emotion, is romantically portrayed in “Take it Easy”, providing one of the most honest blends I’ve seen of African pop influence into a defiantly rock song, one that sounds very much like Surfer Blood. In fact, it remains one of the album’s more precious artifacts, the kind of smart, tough love song that earns its shaggy upbeat demeanor (and may save a few hearts down the line). Once Pitts has set up his “live life now” ideals effectively, his turn to other matters- of the heart, of David Lynch, an instrumental just to jam- are the detours that end up being most fascinating.

“Neighbour Riffs” barely breaks the two-minute mark but the length helps contain too many good riffs to simply expound; they lucidly gush out, as they tend to do in jam sessions the track is so obviously emulating, like a water hose into a flower bed. These are the guys I’d crack a beer with: a pop rock song that references being an elitist, Blue Velvet, and David Lynch that is not pretentious? A gold star from this guy. How about that drone noise that starts to sag down the middle of “Anchorage” like a sprightly Sonic Youth toying with structure? I might learn music theory just so I can gush more about what floats around this imperfect collage. Closer “Catholic Pagans” deserves more paragraph than I’m willing to give. Astro Coast is an album that sounds its age, just irrevocably more self-aware and happier for it. Mike Love once said of introverts on Pet Sounds’ “I Know There’s An Answer”: “They trip through their day / and waste all their thoughts at night.” Astro Coast goes a long way to rectify that, and the influence of this band and their sentiments, and all the years and bands and friends and first loves and regrets and lives to follow that helped to shape the four members of Surfer Blood that came to create Astro Coast, it all dissipates into the glowing center of this simple, innocuous treat.

Did I mention the Obama reference?



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user ratings (277)
Chart.
3.6
great
other reviews of this album
zachbredberg (4)
Astro Coast's soothing guitar riffs and base lines shine, yet bring no original sound....

Peter Tabakis (4)
Riffs, and big choruses, are aplenty on Surfer Blood's endearing debut album....

shootmepics (4)
An excellent debut album for the Florida based indie band, Surfer Blood....

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Comments:Add a Comment 
plane
Staff Reviewer
January 26th 2010


6094 Comments


js.

Kiran
Emeritus
January 26th 2010


6001 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0

hey you're back on staff, good to see. terrific review, love that intro.

Digging: Danny Brown - XXX

DFelon204409
Emeritus
January 26th 2010


3995 Comments

Album Rating: 2.5

Snoozefest.

Iluvatar
Staff Reviewer
January 26th 2010


16089 Comments

Album Rating: 3.0

Nah man this shit is pretty chill.

Electric City
Staff Reviewer
January 26th 2010


15743 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0

my favorite album of the year so far

Digging: Flying Lotus - You're Dead!

qwe3
January 26th 2010


21369 Comments

Album Rating: 3.5

This looks so good. liked the review too

alachlahol
January 26th 2010


7501 Comments

Album Rating: 3.0

too much surf rock coming out for me to handle

some of the analogies used escape me, and i had to re-read them, such as the garden hose reference

alachlahol
January 26th 2010


7501 Comments

Album Rating: 3.0

and i love surf rock

MaskAtTheMasquerade
January 26th 2010


2887 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0

Love this album. hopefully be seeing them soon in March.

Roach
January 26th 2010


2148 Comments


honestly this is my most listened to album of well the last week but yeah shit rules

good to see you back on staff for real

plane
Staff Reviewer
January 26th 2010


6094 Comments


too much surf rock coming out for me to handle

I was going to bring this up in the review (this point is sort of touched upon in my introduction) but the release date for Astro Coast really helps to separate Surfer Blood from their peers and allow time to find what elevates them. I wasn't a big fan of most of the bands that came out last year that helped kind of revive this aesthetic, but Surfer Blood help to touch upon elements I look for in the albums (especially indie rock) that I love: a real sense of place and person backed by clever and rewarding tunes. That they based it in a surf rock context seems like a natural progression of their influences and not just a half-assed cash in on an easy demographic.

Or do you mean like "too much to handle" that you can't keep up with it all? That could be true as well.

Poet
January 26th 2010


5935 Comments


my favorite album of the year so far


That's a shocker

Waior
January 26th 2010


11461 Comments


gonna love this one

Digging: Hey Rosetta! - Second Sight

hydeyomoney
January 26th 2010


934 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0

Basically this album is great.

Fuff24
January 26th 2010


1118 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0

album= awesome

alachlahol
January 26th 2010


7501 Comments

Album Rating: 3.0

I was going to bring this up in the review (this point is sort of touched upon in my introduction) but the release date for Astro Coast really helps to separate Surfer Blood from their peers and allow time to find what elevates them. I wasn't a big fan of most of the bands that came out last year that helped kind of revive this aesthetic, but Surfer Blood help to touch upon elements I look for in the albums (especially indie rock) that I love: a real sense of place and person backed by clever and rewarding tunes. That they based it in a surf rock context seems like a natural progression of their influences and not just a half-assed cash in on an easy demographic.

Or do you mean like "too much to handle" that you can't keep up with it all? That could be true as well.



i'd say i meant it more in an overwhelming sense. bands being added to the surf rock heap with more frequency and in higher numbers than previous years

kingsoby1
Emeritus
January 26th 2010


4950 Comments


pretty cool so far, not sure if i'm as big on it as you guys though

iarescientists
January 27th 2010


5863 Comments

Album Rating: 3.5 | Sound Off

i was like hmm i wonder why lewis likes this so much and then david lynch

AggravatedYeti
January 27th 2010


7685 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0

^ haha

also album rules

plane
Staff Reviewer
January 27th 2010


6094 Comments


david lynch is the only reason



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