Tarot Classics, Surfer Blood’s new palette-cleansing EP, finds the Florida-based indie-rock quartet in a winsome state of flux. Recent Warner Bros. signees, transplanted from their original label, the uber-indie Kanine Records (Are people still considered sell-outs when they do this, or is that over now?), these tuneful critical darlings toss off four future setlist showstoppers with the ease of veterans twice their age. But this quick-firing collection sounds, more so than a tight statement of purpose, like an artistic bridge from their scrappy, terrific 2010 debut, Astro Coast, to that dreaded sophomore outing.
Yet if you (like me) were blindsided and bitch-slapped by Astro Coast’s sheer melodic awesomeness, there’s plenty to love here. If that debut was an all-you-can-eat buffet of tight power-pop nostalgia, Tarot Classics is the savory after-dinner mint you snatch on the way out the door. All of Astro’s charms—be it JP Pitts’ saintly tenor, that colossal electric guitar crunch—are still firmly intact, only amplified and slightly polished. The hilariously catchy title track, with its start-stop power chords and a melody bouncier than a ping-pong ball, sounds like a four-and-a-half minute refinement of their hooky, muscly strengths.
But Surfer Blood aren’t simply re-hashing their past successes here, toe-dipping their oeuvre into slightly more romantic waters with the horns and cello that, respectively, pepper the singalong-y “Miranda” and the slightly melancholic “Voyager Reprise.” And the wonderful (if slightly disconnected) “Drinking Problem” closes the EP with a tease of the more colorful waters that possibly wait on the horizon. Here, Pitts’ reverb-swathed voice fidgets and squirms in a spacey call-and-response over chilly electronic rhythms and a front-and-center bass pulse. Even when an electric guitar pops up toward the track’s conclusion, it somehow avoids typecasting, wallowing in a decidedly unmelodic haze of feedback.