You can tell right off the bat that the Florida foursome known as Surfer Blood is going to have a big year. Their debut, Astro Coast, fits in perfectly with the other low-fi surf rock-inspired bands already buzzing along, this time taking more hints from early nineties garage heroes than leaning on waves of distortion for their signature sound. This is probably why they hit the ground running after CMJ not too long ago. It’s a diverse record that puts their mark on indie rock, from the guitar noise to the hints at afro bounce, all wrapped up in a post-punk meets indie-pop package. That aside, the bigger picture is that Astral Coast is an insanely enjoyable rock record that’s perfect as a summer soundtrack, and now that it’s out, it will have all winter to ripen.
The record jumps off the slacker’s couch with the evenly mellow, but high tempo “Floating Vibes” that keeps the energy saved for short string arrangements and evenly paced guitar solos. It’s an interesting lead into one of the best tracks, and last years break out single “Swim”. The riffs are simple, but punch hard. The reverb in the anthemic vocals, with the moments of offbeat drums, move the track energetically along from one chunky guitar part to the next. The funky beats then melt right into the bouncy, echoing, “Take it Easy”. Already, from the first three tracks you can tell this will be a pleasantly scattered record, and it’s fun to listen to them build each song into its own identity.
As things progress, the record moves deeper into the band’s persona. Nowhere is this clearer than on the Grohl-approved instrumental “Neighbour Riffs”. Working off a steady groove and a fuzzy melody, the guitars freak out on west coast melodies to sonic flings. There’s much to be seen with this band, and tracks like that prove they can write a righteous jam if they want to, but that’s still only one side to the band.
The other lives in his bedroom as a lonely teenager with Pinkerton on repeat. That character comes out on the playful “Twin Peaks”, and the double header of “Fast” and “Slow Jabroni”. This is when the record loses the big shout along choruses and lets the demons out, especially with the last “Jabroni”. It’s a bit lethargic as heavily distorted strums back echoing verses and a megaphoned chorus. It’s a simple, but effective build up into the Weezer like slow jam that shyly asks us to, “take it easy on me”.
“Anchorage” pulls on your apathetic heart stings with one-liners like “I don’t care for anyone, they’re probably not a lot of fun.” It’s a moodier turn for a record that was until now positive, but that doesn’t mean it doesn’t stay hopeful. Album closer “Catholic Pagans” is the pinnacle of this digression as they confess about getting rid of drug addiction and bad relationships. It’s an openness that had been saved up, and a sobering way to end it all.
Surfer Blood is still very young, and that’s what seems to stick out most on the record. That youth finds them building their confidence as song writers, and searching for their place to fit in. Astro Coast is a strong debut, and a great set up for them to build off of to further carve a notch in the world they’ve been thrust into. They found a fresh way to reinvent the indie-rock sound in a way that was needed, something that wasn’t so bright and shiny from the first single to the inevitable car commercial. This is what makes the record so perfect for this moment in time, and finally it’s something with cojones.