Surfer Blood are back with Snowdonia, which is seemingly a John Pitts passion project as he wrote every song on the 8-track album. I can only assume Pitts spent the last two years, since the release of the underwhelming 1000 Palms, listening to and falling under influence of any of the following: Badfinger, The Beach Boys, The Troggs. Or a combination. Surfer Blood have been through a lot to say the least, Snowdonia is their first album release since the heartbreaking death of founding guitarist Thomas Fekete. They have enlisted two new members who have settled into place within the band, adding an inventive element. While at their core they are an indie rock group, albums like Snowdonia set them back on the surf rock track.
Astro Coast (2010), Surfer Blood's first full-length album, was a phenomenal, garage rock offering with a James Mercer feel. They switched gears on Pythons (2013), which was a creative blend of garage grunge and pop, sounding heavily influenced by Pixies and Semisonic or mid-90's era Weezer - an effort that worked well, "Demon Dance" is a killer tune. But to follow that up with 1000 Palms (2015), a decent album albeit boring and uninventive, revealed an unclear future for the band.
Snowdonia is hearty breath of fresh air. A clear surf rock album complete with perfectly timed wah-wah, super slides, and occasional reverb which closely resembles Astro Coast, having matured. The melancholy lyricism reveals an album rife with grief wrapped in a fantastically buoyant facade. As Snowdonia progresses it seems Pitts' voice starts to sound more and more Morissey-esque, this only adds to the melancholy. Surfer Blood substitute the punkier backing vocals - a la Pythons - for subtle harmonies compliments of new bassist Lindsay Mills, a welcome addition - though I do miss those rougher notes here and there. While it lacks in the jauntiness of past albums, Snowdonia makes up for it in creative vigour. An album full of interesting songs, that work well in progression, there is a true star and that is "Six Flags in F or G", a deliciously ominous track using 70's style chords, possibly a phase shifter, cowboy themes and of course coveted surf vibrato.
They prove to be indie surf rock chameleons often teetering on the edge of popdom but always pulling back just in time. This is the version of Surfer Blood Seth Cohen might have been dragging the gang to see play The Bait Shop in The O.C circa 2005. It's definitely the kind of album that deserves full attention with a quality pair of headphones.
Snowdonia Track Listing:
01. Matter of Time
03. Dino Jay
04. Six Flags in F or G
06. Instant Doppelgängers
07. Taking Care of Eddy
08. Carrier Pigeon