This January, indie rock has its first Battle of the Beach Bands! So let’s take a look, shell we?
Heavily tipped Floridian newcomers Surfer Blood release their debut Astro Coast on the 19th and one week later Baltimore’s Sub Pop signees Beach House drop their third album, Teen Dream. (No word what Wavves, the Sea and Cake, or Modest Mouse’s “Ocean Breathes Salty” think about the aquatic competition.)
Since they burst forth from the froth a few months ago, Surfer Blood have been continuously compared to Weezer—which isn’t untrue, but it is misleading. They’re too adept at creating punchy power pop to be primarily inspired by Rivers Cuomo or Vampire Weekend (who they also sound like).
I’d wager these guys have a substantial collection of dollar-bin LPs from the Cars, Squeeze, Rick Springfield and probably even Boston. Heck, their best song—the near-perfect “Swim (To Reach the End)”—is a dead ringer for Asia’s “Heat of the Moment.” And there’s nothing wrong with that—arena rock is one of the few under-revived ’80s sub-genres.
Grizzly Bear buddies Beach House, on the other fin, are an entirely different breed of seaside rock. If Surfer Blood evoke your first make-out session in the sand, Beach House provide the soundtrack for staring at the sea and wondering why your beloved ____ left you after __ years of perfect love.
So yes, they can be snoozy—sometimes this duo comes across like Procol Harum on NyQuil—but at their best, they succeed in twisting the dream pop of the Cocteau Twins into their own mesmerizing blend. On “Norway,” for example, the duo avoids tripping over their own sea legs through Victoria Legrand’s vocals, which provide a tinge of smoky blues and keep the drifting tune grounded.
This all leads to the inevitable (and perhaps contrived) comparison—which Beach Blanket Bingo will you be attending this January? If both bands sold sea-dees by the sea shore, who would get your clams? Too many puns? Why so crabby?
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