Review : Surfer Blood - Tarot Classics EP
Pitchfork"I'm not ready to look the other way," Surfer Blood frontman John Paul Pitts lets loose halfway through "I'm Not Ready". So it would seem. "Ready" launches Tarot Classics, Surfer Blood's first proper release since early 2010's Astro Coast. Title aside, it's a modest effort, four sturdy pop-rockers, 15 easy minutes. Blithely confident, Astro Coast's sunsoaked power-pop found Surfer Blood blowing through one breezily bulbous hook and escapist lyric after another. Tarot Classics finds Surfer Blood throwing a little shade.
With its so-bright-you'll-squint melody and bummer-in-the-summer vibe, "I'm Not Ready" would've fit just fine almost anywhere on Astro Coast. But its crisp handclaps and neon guitars belie a serious compositional sophistication, a seemingly endless string of bridges charting the path to the song's bounding hook. "Your mouth is running off now that you've seen a few things," Pitts admonishes, and "don't get too big for your britches" seems in some ways Tarot Classics' guiding principle. As on Astro Coast, they seem confident in their every move but unwilling to take on more than they can handle.
First single "Miranda" is a bit of a blur, highlighted by its a rousing guitar break, its one-word chorus (hint: it's a girl's name), and a more-than-passable Morrissey impression from Pitts. The hints of Anglophilia that emerge on "Miranda" and through the rest of Tarot Classics are, in many ways, their biggest step away from the distinctly American roots (Beach Boys, Weezer, Cheap Trick) of Astro Coast. Pitts' voice wears this somewhat dolorous tone every bit as well as he did Astro Coast's shouty Brian Wilsonisms, and the band follows suit, lending a richly textured, slightly overcast New Romantic lean to the proceedings that feels deeper-- if a bit less retina-searing-- than the brasher Astro Coast.
"Voyager Reprise" takes off slowly, eventually settling into a shuffly, somewhat morose melody and dance-night-at-the-pub groove pitched somewhere between the Strokes and those early Cure singles. It's aching melody amplified by that newfound gravity in Pitts' voice, "Voyager" certainly feels like Surfer Blood's first truly sad song, the longing in its simply stated chorus impossible to miss. Closer "Drinking Problem" is alternately Tarot Classics' highlight and its least characteristic track, a lush, staggering bit of New Romantic pop that finds Pitts switching out the Moz for a Bernard Sumnerian swoon not unlike that of Kisses frontman Jesse Kivel. A shimmering synth melody buoys the aching Pitts, reassuring himself with, "at least I know who my friends are," every utterance sounding less and less convinced of itself....full text
SpinNext Tuesday, Kanine Records will release Tarot Classics, the new EP from South Florida indie-rockers/CMJ survivalists Surfer Blood. While the disc ditches a lot of the volume-juicing tactics of its predecessor, 2009's Astro Coast, it's a tuneful step toward what SPIN writer Nick Murray refers to as "college rock bliss". Listen to the EP in its entirety as well as two bonus remixes by Speculator and Summer of Love, both of which will be included on the release across all formats....full text
SlantmagazineWith Tarot Classics, Surfer Blood returns in a format that perfectly complements their breezy garage-pop sound: the EP. With all due respect to their debut LP, Astro Coast, the West Palm Beach hipsters' punchy surf rock is best consumed sparingly, preferably while—depending on where you happen to live—aimlessly watching the waves roll in or navigating the tedium of suburbia. Tarot Classics treats listeners to just a slice of Surfer Blood's Blue Album-inspired everyman rock while acting as an expansion on Astro Coast's guitar-drenched offerings, and the result is a stronger, more concentrated dose of beachfaring ear candy.
The sober, almost blasé delivery of his plain-spoken vocals casts leadman John Paul Pitts as more of a second-generation Black Francis than a Brian Wilson, and the song's one-guitar, Pixies-kissed melody lines follow suit. Indeed, Tarot Classics is refreshingly light and atypical of the kind of sudsy and self-indulgent atmospherics usually associated with this brand of music. The only thing that comes close to real sonic density, in fact, is the band's guitarwork, dipped with a low-end, oily distortion that, once upon a time, Weezer used to employ so effectively.
There's a subtle, intrinsic grittiness to the EP that doesn't sound tacked-on in post-production. The fact that most of the songs here sound as though they were recorded with a keen ear and then left alone is Tarot Classics's most endearing quality: It's wonderfully grungy but lacking in any forced lo-fi ostentation or chasm-like aesthetics one would find on, say, a Best Coast release.
Like their unassuming music, Surfer Blood presents a naked and resigned, but largely angst-free, perspective on twentysomething troubles. Pitts and company quickly reiterate their personae as a bunch of scruffy, garage-bound guys more interested in an easygoing jam session than heady, blog-approved art rock. Something like "Drinking Problem," with its pedaling beat and sparse riffs, is clearly not aiming for reinvention, but catchy, easily consumed roadtrip fodder, and it achieves exactly that. From the flicked guitar melodies of "I'm Not Ready" to the layered organ flourishes on "Voyager Reprise," Tarot Classics might be nothing more than a pleasant, irreverent distraction, but Surfer Blood probably wouldn't have it any other way....full text
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