Having made the switch from major label to legendary indie, Surfer Blood’s chilled-out brand of indie-pop hasn’t really changed that much – but they’re clearly keen for you to think it has.
Third album ‘1000 Palms’ isn’t completely cohesive, with the tracklisting seemingly random and changes between songs less than seamless. Second track ‘Island’ would have made a better opener, for instance, than the cliche-ridden ‘Grand Inquisitor’, which sees frontman John Paul Pitts sing: “Time waits for no-one” (see also: the idiom-based ‘Feast/Famine’, which is a great track, especially when backing vocals appear towards the end).
But each song has its appeal, and the rough and ready layout of the record kind of matches the DIY recording process. The quality of their music hasn’t necessarily gone up or down, but the inclusion of a bit more synth and a few leftfield choices seems to have suited them, finding a middle-ground between Pythons’ polish and the grit of debut album Astro Coast. Lyrically, ideas were clearly flowing, but a second draft might’ve been a good idea before committing them to tape.
Something about ‘Point Of No Return’ is off-putting, and not in a can’t-put-your-finger-on-it kind of way. Pitts sings, “I’m happy for you / if you’re happy too,” and you can’t help but remember the tabloid-like headlines of domestic battery that preceded the band’s last album.
Given that it was three years ago it feels like it shouldn’t be relevant to ‘1000 Palms’, but in this song, it is. The track might not even be about that ex, but that’s what it evokes. The intro lends a conclusive, resolution-type vibe, but it might have been wiser to keep the sound less autobiographical. Also, who concludes something half way through an album?
Lead single ‘Dorian’ comes in quite late – it’s strong, especially with that guitar solo, but by no means a highlight by the time you get to it, and ‘Other Desert Cities’ close to the end of the record is another gem.
From the short soppy waltziness of ‘Into Catacombs’ to gentle acoustic closer ‘NW Passage’ (which also clocks in as the longest track at over four and a half minutes, although the last 30 seconds are birdsong), it’s another collection of decent, cheerful indie-pop.
More like this
An emotional affair.
Guitarist was diagnosed with cancer earlier this year, recording the album between surgery and chemotherapy.
The bizarre visual tells the tale of a man who gets talent-spotted while playing the lute in a carpark.
Track is taken from an ‘Amazon Acoustics’ compilation.