Saturday, January 23, 2010

Review: Surfer Blood - Astro Coast (* * * *)

If there ever was a band that embodied college/indie rock, Surfer Blood is it. The University of Florida students comprising the group recorded their debut album, as their bio states, "in a college dorm room using musical equipment purchased with scholarship money" because they rejected the version they had recorded in the studio due to "the way the engineer was affecting their sound." So indie, so cool, and fortunately, a wise decision as well as Astro Coast is a more than solid rock 'n' roll debut with an enjoyable DIY aesthetic. Like their name might imply, the boys carry on a sound that was quite prevalent last year, a sort of hazy surf-pop, but their spin on the style is the best I've yet heard. Surfer Blood takes the sunny, easygoing vibe common to the genre and marries it with more earnest power-pop to consistently fun and thoroughly entertaining results that live up to the considerable hype that has been built around the record.

The first single, "Swim," leans heavily toward the louder, more bombastic side of the band's sound and is an easy pick for album highlight and one of this year's best tracks so far (though it also recieved a good deal of attention in 2009). The muscular guitars churn out power-chord riffs while singer John Paul Pitts practically shouts the anthematic choruses in such an uninhibited and winning manner as to knock down any resistance the listener may have had prior to listening. Though the remainder of the record doesn't make such an immediate impact, the same hook-filled, guitar-heavy approach makes for plenty of fine pop moments, with enough variety to put Surfer Blood a cut above many of their garage-rock peers. Each tune succeeds at evoking a sort of casual, almost off-handed approach without ever coming across as lazy, a line which is rarely trod this well. Other great examples of the band's formula are "Floating Vibes," a melodic, laid-back jam, "Take it Easy," a lean rock tune with a tropical vibe, and closer "Catholic Pagans," a Weezer-esque bit of sunny pop.

Surfer Blood's space may be crowded and will likely continue to get busier, but Astro Coast is a great start at staying ahead of the curve. Providing these guys continue to stay ambitious, I expect a bright future for this fun-loving and genuinely "indie" bunch of rockstars.