Surfer Blood’s debut album seems, at first listen, to be an amalgam of what’s popular right now in indie rock: Singer John Paul Pitts uses a lot of reverb like James Mercer of The Shins (perhaps a necessity – live his voice is rough without the studio help), the band embark on a few Vampire Weekend-esque excursions into African rhythms (“Take It Easy” might as well be called “Oxford Semi-colon”) and there’s a Rivers Cuomo sensibility in the lyrics and vocal melodies. This might not make Surfer Blood sound very exciting, but on the contrary, this album is a pleasure that reveals new layers with each listen.
The band’s success lies in how they embrace big guitar-rock sounds with an enthusiasm rarely seen since the early-‘90s. In fact, the album occasionally feels like an audio tour of American guitar-driven alternative rock. There’s Fugazi skronk on the instrumental “Neighbor Riffs”, Built To Spill weirdness on “Twin Peaks”, “Harmonix” begs for an Interpol cover, “Anchorage” is a Sonic Youth reduction, and there’s a large dose of Pixies’ surf-grunge popping up throughout. However, it’s “Swim” you’ll remember most. To call the song huge would be an understatement. Giant chords, endless reverb, and a repetitive chorus that sticks in your head for days, combine to create one of those rare career-making moments you only get a few times each year. I hope these guys like the song, because they’ll be playing it when they’re 50. If only alternative rock radio were still big enough (and cool enough) to make this song the massive hit it deserves to be.