Astro Coast (Kanine, 2010)
Was I misquoted? I guess I did say Astro Coast was one of the best releases of 2010 so far. What date is it today? Oh - Jan. 15th you say? So far, iTunes is telling me that I’ve collected 14 albums with release dates that fall within this 12-month block we find ourselves in currently, and two of those are re-issues. And yes, this is one of the brightest of this tiny bunch (to put it in perspective, I collected well over 200 for 2009, and I fully expect that number to be superseded this year) - so maybe that isn’t saying a lot.
Here’s what I hear in the youthful, excited and triumphant debut from these Palm Beach alterna-rockers. I hear the power-punch of Blue Album era Weezer, and I hear the melodic tunefulness of the Shins, and I hear the shimmery, reverb/echoed textures of Real Estate. It’s all mished and mashed together into bite-sized (shark-bite sized? Sometimes - dig the 6 min. plus “Slow Jabroni”) chunks of meaty, muscly pop songs. But these muscly pop songs at times have the added edge of a tropical flavoring - soca patterns (from Trinidad) in the drums, light syncopation in the guitar lines - that add a sense of delight to the woes of teenage lovelorn seclusion, of which this style is predictably reminiscent. Ryan’s right to call “Swim” the album’s best track, but he’s wrong when he forgets numbers like “Harmonix” and “Fast/Slow Jabroni,” tracks that display a band that exhibits refreshing confidence. This is indeed a young band, but it’s a young band fully buying into its style, aware of precisely what it’s ripping off and when, and exploiting these borrowed moments to their full extensions to create a sound that I, for one, can totally get behind.
Here’s where things go South: tracks like closer “Catholic Pagans” almost borrow a bit much. The chord progression seems stale on the first listen, as if we’ve all heard it a thousand times before (and we have). Thus, for a debut, though Surfer Blood crafts a strong, confident album with Astro Coast, there’s a sense that the group could go one of two directions - into simple, easy power-pop stardom, or develop and diversify their skills into something critics may hope to call challenging.