Album Review: Surfer Blood – Astro Coast

Conceived in a Florida dorm room by a group of West Palm Beach kids who had barely hit elementary school in the heyday of 90s indie rock (damn, I’m getting old!), Surfer Blood’s Astro Coast has already started generating a significant amount of buzz for its mix of 90s indie sensibilities with a touch of 60s surf-style flair.  The result is a rocking, guitar-driven romp that leaves one recognizing reference points to Weezer, the Pixies and Pavement amid flourishes of the Beach Boys and Dick Dale, with a mashed up finished product that is guaranteed to please fans of more contemporary Surfer Blood analogues like Built to Spill, Vampire Weekend, the Shins, Silversun Pickups and Band of Horses.   Read on for our review and some streaming links…

The album starts off in righteous, reverb-drenched fashion with “Floating Vibes,” and the little touches like the harmony vocals during the chorus and orchestral string  flourish to the outro of the track give it a maturity that greatly belies the age of its creators (really trying to avoid another Beach Boys reference here!).  The second track and first single, “Swim,” keeps the energy high, and already made Pitchfork’s Best Tracks of 2009 List by virtue of being released late last summer.

“Floating Vibes”

“Swim”

While these two tracks are the most likely to introduce the band to the masses, Surfer Blood master the hard/soft, hook-laden song formula and pleasant mix of clean and crunchy tones throughout the album, making  Astro Coast a greater-than-the-sum-of-its-parts treat from start to finish.   “Take It Easy” bounces along courtesy of some punchy percussion and another 60s surf-style riff, and “Harmonix” bubbles and grooves masterfully around a simple harmonic guitar jam.  “Neighbour Riffs” is a short instrumental begging  for a sunny day with the car windows down, and aptly named “Anchorage” holds together the second half of the album with a slow build and my favorite crunchy-smooth guitar jam of the album to close it out.

“Take It Easy” (Something is up with the audio on this one, but hang in there for the jam over the last minute or so…)

“Harmonix”

“Neighbour Riffs” (This one comes with an interesting graphic video)

“Anchorage” (Live on KEXP)

Astro Coast is going to get a lot of attention this year, and rightly so.  It’s the first great release of the new year as far as I am concerned (caveat that I haven’t heard Spoon’s Transference yet, and just don’t dig Vampire Weekend that much).  Bonus points are also regularly awarded by this reviewer to any band that manages to incorporate a great white shark into its cover art.

My biggest challenge will be not playing it out before the summertime.  And the best news is, you can download the entire mp3 album at Amazon right now for $5.00.

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~ by thecarolinarhythmsection on February 1, 2010.

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