It is perhaps inevitable that Surfer Blood’s latest, Snowdonia, will be remembered less for its catchy, powerful tracks like ‘Six Flags in F or G’, and more as an album to emerge from tragedy.
Coming after last year’s death of guitarst Thomas Fekete, at the age of just 27 from a rare form of cancer, this is a tough album for any young band to have to make.
They’d be forgiven for hurriedly churning it out to get back on the horse, but instead they’ve created a tour do force that is a fitting tribute to their departed friend.
Perhaps one of the reasons this is such a good album is that for the first time since their stunning 2010 debut Astro Coast, lead singer and chief songwriter John Paul Pitts has taken a tighter rein, writing and mixing it alone with the new line up in mind. This includes greater vocal layering featuring guitarist Michael McCleary and bassist Lindsey Mills, who has replaced original member Kevin Williams.
This focus on vocals is important as it was Pitt’s gigantic voice that made them stand out from the rest of the indie rock crowd back in 2010.
Among the high points are the aforementioned Six Flags in F or G, a Pixies-esque stomper, and the joyously catchy opener Matter of Time.
Another is Taking Care of Eddy, which channels the Ramones to offer an affectionate tribute to an elderly relative of Pitts’ girlfriend.
Their tragic year is not sketched over though. Final track Carrier Pigeon, deals with cancer, specifically Pitts’ relationship with his parents following his mothers’ diagnosis with breast cancer. Despite such heavy subject matter it emerges as one of the most radio friendly pop tracks.
With 2013’s more downbeat Pythons and 2015’s 1,000 failing to impress me, this album feels like a return to form for the Florida act and certainly their best collection since their debut.
by Joe Lepper