Album Review: Surfer Blood ‘Astro Coast’

Whenever a new indie band is hyped online, there is a depressingly predictable cycle that occurs. First, there’s the immediate rush of unabashed affection as bloggers rush to jump on the bandwagon. Then, there’s the backlash, where words like “over-rated” and “they’re just ripping off Radiohead and/or Arcade Fire” are thrown around a lot.

Next there’s the backlash against the backlash where fans of the band respond to the criticism and assert that the band is, in fact, perfectly correctly-rated, and that you are, in fact, an imbecile for thinking otherwise. Finally, everything settles into the “meh zone”, where the backlashers stop caring and the fans are just normal fans, no longer thinking that the band are the best thing in the history of the universe.

So in summary it goes love -> hate -> angry love -> indifference. I know, how optimistic and life-affirming.

Anyway where was I? Oh right, Surfer Blood’s debut album. Yeah, it’s pretty cool I suppose.

Album Rated: 7/10

…Alright fine, a proper review. Surfer Blood were hyped online a ridiculous amount last year- from memory I saw on a list somewhere that I can’t be bothered finding again and is probably wrong anyway that they were the third most blogged about band. Admittedly this isn’t really the type of accolade you dream about as a band, but there can be no denying that it is proving one of the best ways of building up a fanbase: just look at The XX.

Collectively, we are most definitely in the unabashed love stage for the Florida rockers. And while this is certainly justified, and there is a good reason for the fact that this band is one of the bloggers’ new love projects, let me play man from the future for a second and look at what people will be saying as part of the backlash against Surfer Blood. Because really, the last thing you need is another blog telling you how this is the best band ever.

Their debut album, ‘Astro Coast’, is lo-fi surf rock music, driven by guitar hooks and distorted verses. You could say that it is at times a lazy and incoherent effort. One could say they sound exactly like Girls but not quite as cool. Some may say that their songs really aren’t catchy or clever or innovative or anything that special really.

Not me though, I kind of like ‘Astro Coast’.

First single Swim (To Reach The End) is an instantly likeable song, as layers of distortion and chaos slowly peel away to reveal a chilled out and crystal clear chorus. It is a refreshing take on the tradition of adding layers as building to a climax. Indeed this song is representative of the band’s approach to making music as a whole. Surfer Blood make minimalistic music, but it’s in their lack of complexity that you can find their allure.

Nothing new there, in fact if anything the band are a bit late to the 2009 beach party that was last year in music.

But there’s nothing wrong with more of a good thing. Opening track Floating Vibes is one of the best on the record, immediately capturing the atmosphere of a surfer losing himself in the waves: “When you wake up in the morning, and you hear that awful applause, put it in your fucking napkin, and watch it dissolve”.

The opening tracks are undeniably stronger than the rest of the album, which almost blur together into one distorted haze of surf music. That is, until the rather magnificent closer Catholic Pagans, which takes a step back from the rest of the album and closes ‘Astro Coast’ in a self-reflective, almost operatic way.

So ‘Astro Coast’ is a very strong debut album, I’d nearly call it a great album. It’s probably a few months late to be considered innovative or indeed alternative, but it’s a cool record. Unfortunately we’re firmly embedded in the love stage, so all we’re going to be hearing is how utterly incredible it is, which will get tiresome very quickly. Just wait for the backlash though; guaranteed hilarity.

Sadly Surfer Blood will have to go through this cycle, but in the midst of it all they will produce some great music and put on some great shows. And in the end, isn’t that what really matters?

No? Well whatever, I tried.

Listen To: Swim (To Reach The End), Floating Vibes, Catholic Pagans, Fast Jabroni

And if you have gathered whether I like the album or not from this review then you are a smarter person than me. Indeed this review has been so confusing and nonsensical that I think I should submit it to Pitchfork.

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