Beach Fossils (Captured Tracks, 05.2010)
For: Real Estate, The Clientele, Yo La Tengo, Sleepover
Byline: Breezy, summery lo-fi sweetness from the indomitable Captured Tracks label.
Summer albums. You either love to hate them, or you hate that you love them so much. I am going to tip the scales here and say I am absolutely in love with this album. No begruding "yeah, it's goood, buuut..." I am smitten. Released on Memorial Day, Brooklyn's Beach Fossils revel in ubiquity... the clean single note guitar lines, cardboard drumming, and washed out vocals are designed to tread lightly, as to not intrude on your beach party, summer road trip, or back deck kegger overlooking a moonlight beach (as beer commercials have lead me to believe happen on a regular basis). When it comes to hooks, Beach Fossils choose to embed these deep into Dustin Payseur's rambling guitar lines instead of the standard verse-chorus arrangement. In fact, aside from the strong vocal melodies on each song, there is nary a vocal hook on the whole album. Things get dodgy when Payseur's floating vocals try to compete with the already overstated guitar lines. This misstep occurs only occasionally, most notably on the album's most grating song "Vacation". Other than that Beach Fossils is pitch-perfect. The 11 songs swim by in a way that simultaneously enraptures you while lulling you into the haze of a sunset captured on 8mm film. Things don't get much brighter or warmer.
While not having much ambition to rise out and above the current musical landscape of similar lo-fi summer boardwalk bands, there isn't much to complain about either. Musically astute, Payseur's guitar work is top notch, creating memorable, hummable hooks that serve vehicle for the album's emotional weight. Beach Fossils evoke an emotion, it is just difficult to categorize what that is. While incessantly up-tempo, a pervading sense of nostalgia saturates the album. Perhaps Beach Fossils (as the name would imply) isn't so much a summer lived in right now, but an adolescent summer vacation remembered through a picture album stored in the wood paneled living room of your parents house. Either way, Beach Fossils is the best summer album of 2010, or 1993.