Words by Sean Moeller, Illustration by Johnnie Cluney, Sound engineering by Mike Gentry, Photograph by Joe Unander
The warmth of Surfer Blood's debut album, "Astro Coast," isn't perpetual. It does not keep rippling, hitting you with wave after wave of hot degrees. While it is the basis and part of the execution of every song on the record, that warmth is limited, almost a decoy that can be so easily deceptive that you can still feel caught up in it even when it's impossible. The group of young men from West Palm Beach, Florida, aren't at all about or for the perma-tan that many might be too willing to pin on them. "Astro Coast" isn't beach blanket music to play beneath a sparkling night sky, as the salt from the crashing waters seeps into your hair and skin without you even noticing it and the sand forms a new later of skin on the bottoms of your feet. It's a record that should be played when you've had your heart crushed and you just might be getting on to feeling a little better, but that's all relative. It's a record that should be played when you've thought about all of the different ways that your situation could have gone and, even after having done this, there are still more questions than you'd like there to be and there are still billions of head games that are being staged up in your cobwebs, up where the passionate parts of the head are still lit up like Las Vegas Boulevard - red and white hot and every other color of illumination imaginable. There's a cool air to the words that lead singer J.P. Pitts sings and it hits you the way those pockets of cold air hit you occasionally in the summertime - particularly in lower-lying areas near a body of water - where things are happening in the air and amidst the hot stuffiness comes a small patch of oddly cool air. It's the lyrics that Pitts puts to the songs on "Astro Coast," completed by the playing of TJ Schwarz, Thomas Fekete, Brian Black and Marcos Marchesani, that give the whole experience a feel of time on the run or threatened innocence. The stories in these songs sound as if they're coming from the perspective not of a guy getting trampled on for the first time, but perhaps this is the third or fourth time and some things have become quite a bit clearer to him, however, some clarity still doesn't make for a settled spirit. There's disappointment within these songs and there's the sense that it's just the beginning. Pitts sings on "Harmonix," "I won't wait around for the ice to thaw out now," seemingly suggesting that there have been some concessions made and he'll be damned if he's just going to go on playing the fool, hoping that everything changes and gets made right for he knows that the odds are long. Surfer Blood do a great job of taking the transition point of powerless young-man-dom and making it sound like the point where the wings have been clipped some, where there have been some burn marks made for showing off and where there's still a good helping of refusal to fall into complacency with the outcomes that may be. It sounds like an analysis of the space where excuses and manning up come together, where the hide starts to get a little thicker, but there are still plenty of cracks in the armor to let in those surprising swatches of cold air.