As much as I enjoy geeking out by building best-of album lists, song lists are infinity more interesting. A song is a high-wire act: one slip, one faulty step and you’ve got a mess on your hands. Albums, almost by their very nature, are more forgiving: great albums still have awful, awful songs. So a list of the best songs of a period tend to be more inclusive of different types of talent. Quite a few of these bands here don’t have enough of it to sustain an album (yet?), but they have enough to absolutely crush one. So, culled together with scraps of time over the past week and crafted with a fair amount of thought and consideration, I humbly submit 40 songs that have it pretty well locked down this year. Comments, omissions, counter-arguments all certainly welcome.
Archive for the ‘Surfer Blood’Category
Surfer Blood – Astro Coast (Kanine)
Do you remember Tapes n Tapes? Remember, they were that charming little engine that could from Minneapolis. When was the last time you listened to Loons? It’s been some time, hasn’t it? While TnT were a perfectly fine band (who I bet sounded epically awesome in the Bryant Lake Bowl), they were not a band that was ready to release an album to be scrutinized on the national level. They needed to log some more time in the trenches, focus their disparate energies a bit more, and then record a solid B+ of an album.
Surfer Blood is in this exact same position right now. They have all the potential to be an excellent band, but this is not the album that should be garnering all the praise. At the end of the day, the parts are greater than the sum. As an album, Astro Coast is directionless, lacking even the slightest sense of cohesiveness. However, this little mess of an album is built from quite a few gems.
While “Swim (To Reach the End),” is a reverby blast of pop, “Slow Jabroni” (yeah, that’s an Iron Sheik reference) carefully builds its fuzzy argument before it takes off into its loud/gentle pleas to “take it easy on me.” “Neighbour Riffs” threatens to confirm some ill-conceived notion that Surfer Blood are making any kind of neo-surf music (leave that to this promising start up). The song is a wonderful 2 minutes of whirlwind, but it only gives the band one more reference point in an album otherwise stuffed with clear references. The high point of the album, though, is “Harmonix.” Despite the fact that it sounds remarkably like the opening to Sonic Youth’s “Do You Believe in Rapture?” the song shifts and flexes with surprising agility. John Paul Pitts’ vocals are at their most versitile and exciting here, swinging from his flat talky verses to the falsetto touched choruses. It’s also the most emotionally complex song on a record that is hard to center around any concrete sentiments. I guess “Swim” is channeling some kind of triump (it sure is uplifting enough), but other songs don’t have any clear emotional resonence. “Harmonix,” though, is at once resentful and whistful, angry and self-reproaching. It’s a complex emotional stew to serve your listener, but the band digs the ladel deep enough.
In a few years Surfer Blood will be able to consistently write songs like “Harmonix,” but they haven’t arrived there yet.