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Album Review
Astro Coast

Astro Coast
by Surfer Blood

Kanine Records/Spunk Records

Review Date
30th January 2010
Reviewed by
Soong Phoon

2009 was a tough year of music for me; too much laptop disco, Afrobeat revival, embarrassing reunions, and thrashy lo-fi guitar. I'm a traditionalist, there just weren't enough songs. Surfer Blood promised to be the exception with single, 'Swim (To Reach the End)' released in early Novembers; a refreshingly upbeat, straightup pop song with a rousing, antheic chorus.

When googling the band you're met with an image of four East Coast American, fresh-faced students, still carrying puppy fat. They're devoid of skinny-jeaned, waist-coated indie affectation. It's conventionality at it's best: guitar hooks, verse, chorus, verse, but with surprisingly crafted, textural breakdowns. There are surprises as well; the orchestral arrangement at the close of ‘Floating Vibes’, occasional whirling synths and each rippling guitar solo between verses takes me aback by the sheer technical skill restrained entirely in favour of bright, ringing melodies.

It's what we'd expect from a gutsier, youthful Shins hailing from the nineties-Modest Mouse-and-Malkmus era of guitar pop, as sunny as the Beach Boys. The polish and sheen of each of these songs runs nicely contrapuntal to the youthful optimism and guilessness of the lead vocalist. On 'Floating Vibes' he sings, "when you told me you were leaving, I wasn't thirsty for revenge, no I wasn’t disappointed much at all, ‘cause you'll be back again". Tracks 'Fast Jabroni' and 'Slow Jabroni' showcase the range of the band as they shift seamlessly from galvanising pop single to reverbed-out slow song. The only flaw of Astro Coast is the lack of engagement that comes from listening to consistently polished arrangements for forty minutes. But not polished enough that you can't imagine them grinning from ear-to-ear jamming in a garage close to the beach. All that's missing is a solid album closer.

Whoever said conventional is boring?

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