Beset with tragedy and turmoil, John Paul Pitts has dragged his band Surfer Blood off the floor and delivered an enjoyable and optimistic slacker rock album
It seems that in the past few years we have been awash with surfer-rock/surfer-pop albums, seemingly become the music du jour for those who feel slightly more fashionable to still listen to Mumford and Sons (and discovered Urban Outfitters). Others, however, still yearning for those halcyon slacker days before we had to get full-time jobs. We fall into two distinct subcultures, those passionate of the subgenre – I can attest to that, and you can make up your own mind which I fall under.
Snowdonia is a celebration of those halcyon days when we first discovered Florida’s Surfer Blood, and dusted off our copies of Crooked Rain, Crooked Rain by Pavement while hyperactive on various caffeine pills scrawling our latest journalistic works while burning the midnight oil. The release of their first album, Astro Coast, was something at the time a deviation away from the hypnagogic-pop – a glimpse of things to come later in the decade (pre peaked-cap bros).
Contrasting to the first album, Snowdonia comes off as an incredibly joyful album – perhaps their most upbeat to date. Opening with the incredibly catchy “Matter of Time”, with it’s sinfully earworm chorus, the album manages to move away from it’s sourness that was Pythons and delving back into what struck a chord with their debut initially – that sugary sweet pop element, that zeitgeist of summery days. Everything that helped further lay down a blueprint to come for Messrs De Marco et al.
It’s a renaissance of sorts for John Paul Pitts; 1000 Palms’ lukewarm reception saw complaints that the band were merely sticking to a formula that over the course of three album had worn out the welcome mat. It’s kind of hard to defend in may ways that the band haven’t returned to the well with their forth release, and all the idioms of past are present. It’s just when this music deviates in slightly often the very beaten track, it’s also very hard to criticize something that is a lot of fun – moments such as the album’s title track and “Dino Jay” (perhaps a cursory nod to godfathers of slacker-rock Dinosaur Jr.) have those barbed-like pop hooks that made Surfer Blood instant favourites amongst the scene, but with a caustic edge to them that manage to stray away from the “good-not-great” mentality of previous works.
It is much less pedestrian without completely undertaking a genre shift and it’s importance is when the album is put into the greater context of what the band had gone through in 2016 when founding member Thomas Fekete lost his battle with cancer. With that looking over the heads of the band, that Pitts managed to craft the most upbeat of compositions to date and actually remained attuned with what made them great/not painting-by-numbers to create “another” Surfer Blood album, have gifted us with an album from what some considered a sleeping (surfing) giant.