THE GRADE B+
BOTTOM LINE Charting a new future for their indie rock
Surfer Blood’s new album, “Snowdonia” (Joyful Noise), was born from a particularly difficult time.
Co-founding guitarist Thomas Fekete died in May after a lengthy battle with cancer. Bassist Kevin Williams left the band shortly after, leaving singer John Paul Pitts and drummer Tyler Schwarz to carry on. Things were complicated by the cancer diagnosis of Pitts’ mother as well.
However, Pitts has found inspiration in those heartaches. The first single, “Six Flags in F or G,” deals with Fekete’s death, starting with layers of angst-ridden guitars that make Pitts sound haunted as he laments “Where I used to look for comfort is cursed hollow cold.” But halfway through it turns into something mellower, as Pitts and new bassist Lindsey Mills sing, “One of these days, we’ll never be apart” with dreamy Pixies-ish alterna-pop sweetness.
The pointed “Carrier Pigeon,” prompted by Pitts’ mother’s cancer diagnosis, also is split, starting off-kilter, as he worries “the world is tipping over,” before finding solid ground and comforting sha-la-las to provide him solace.
There are also moments that come closer to the band’s charming simplicity on its debut, “Astro Coast,” especially the opener, “Matter of Time” — a straightforward, bash-it-out indie rocker that makes the most of Mills and new guitarist Michael McCleary.
However, most of “Snowdonia,” including the epic seven-minute title track, is packed with complicated songs that sound like Pitts working his way through difficult times. Even the wild “Taking Care of Eddy,” with its aggressive time signature, sounds like it’s in a race to see how twisted the road to a pop chorus can get.
“Snowdonia” doesn’t sound like the album Pitts wanted to make as much as it was the one he had to make in order to process what the world was throwing at him. It’s no wonder really that he is already at work on his next project.