Surfer Blood are, much in the vein of a Superchunk or an Archers of Loaf, the quintessential hard-touring, guitar-wielding, fuzz-loving, old school indie rock group. Their existence is a glorious, throwback middle finger to the laptop obsessives that seem to be forming chillwave groups every thirty seconds or so. The Florida-natives debut release, Astro Coast, won not only the heart of Sun News Editor Peter Jacobs but the ears of champions of Weezer-influenced, crunchy power-pop everywhere. The boys toured relentlessly and earned a reputation as a solid, energetic live act and spawned a memorably chaotic video for their signature hit, “Swim.”
Tarot Classics, being Surfer Blood’s follow-up E.P., is their chance to feel out the water before they put together their sophomore release. And, from the onset, you recognize that they’re using the same ingredients that made Astro Coast such a delightful souffle: straightforward melodies, harmonized guitar lines, watery reverb and John Paul Pitts’ earnest voice. Opener “I’m Not Ready” is a sweet pop tune with a tuneful little surf-rock coda at the end and plenty of opportunities to enjoy Pitts’ “strained voice,” which is an always charming departure from his schoolboy croon. Second track “Miranda” opens ebulliently and features subtle vocal harmonies, a glockenspiel and a fakeout of a slow section following the ass-kicking chorus.
“Voyager Reprise” is a prime example of Surfer Blood’s songwriting maturity and expanding sonic pallette. The intro riffs pile atop each other in a style that’s almost blink-182-esque, but they let them repeat and slowly add auxiliary sounds until you can’t take the suspense anymore and then — and just then — do they launch into the central drum groove and the eventual rest of the song, which includes a cool token synth solo, a harmonica and a one-guitar take on the “Reptilia” rhythm riff. “Drinking Problem” is the mellow finale, featuring call and response, tropical rhythms and, frankly, the least awesome song on the record.
Regardless, this is a strong follow-up that presents a more refined and polished Surfer Blood. They still have the songwriting chops to write addictive melodies that worm into your very cortex, and, best of all, they adhere to the the old adage of “Keep It Simple, Stupid.” Aspiring musicians, this is both an excellent and terrible record to listen to. While every song is delectable, they’ll leave you wondering: “Why the hell didn’t I write that?” Don’t be jealous; just get dancing.