Tarot Classics EP
For all the fierce hype that initially greeted Florida’s Surfer Blood, their debut album Astro Coast didn’t receive the attention it deserved, and it’s hard to say what intrigued Warner Bros. about the sweet, emotionally heavy surf-rock revivalists. The foursome can’t escape trials of maturity and the fame hangover soon to engulf them, but something buried in “Anchorage” and “Take It Easy” suggested they will spin such rites of passage into room-spinning, gorgeous introspection -- the kind of songs teens run to for comfort while sulking alone, an artistic goal evocative of no less than the Beach Boys.
The final indie release from the band suggests their evolution is progressing ideally. The brief EP couldn’t be better paced: Astro Coast pop-alike “I’m Not Ready” leads into to the disarming, uncharted shimmer of the riff-drenched “Miranda,” on into the distant pout of the unexpectedly complex “Voyager Reprise” and finally the full-bore synth-jangle psychodrama of “Drinking Problem,” the marriage of the Shins and the Smiths you never knew you needed. Surfer Blood’s future may consist of burnout or underappreciation, but there’s little doubt it will sound fucking great.
Free All the Monsters
In a year that's seen Gen-X titans R.E.M. disband and Sonic Youth fraught with marital peril, there's something inexpressibly comforting about a group like the Bats, an offshoot of New Zealand's legendary band the Clean. Formed in 1982 with the same lineup across the twenty-nine intervening years, they've never broken into the U.S. mainstream and haven't really soared to the heights of many of their generation's luminaries, but their sheer consistency is something to be admired.
And more than that, loved; if you grew up with a certain breed of mid-'80s jangle pop blaring from the household speakers, Free All the Monsters will be like candy for the eardrums. The songs on the Bats' sweet, lilting eighth album aren't nearly as memorable as their best work, but it's no matter because the melodies fade quietly into the background of the gently chiming guitar and vocal blend by Bob Scott and Kaye Woodward. How oddly reassuring that no more than a moment seems to have passed since classics like "Block of Wood." The romantic urge to lie down with headphones on and let this wash over you is too much to resist. If you need convincing, try "Simpletons" and "In the Subway."
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