After Current Joys mastermind Nick Rattigan dispersed his ghoulish, fiery-hearted and capitulating solo productions, I was ready to endure whatever storm his indie rock band Surf Curse had been brewing. Thick-boned tracks like “All is Lost” and “Forever Dumb” are unforgettable, and along with the help of Heaven Surround You’s looming singles “Disco” and “Hour of the Wolf,” I was absorbed into the realm of drummer-singer Rattigan and guitarist Jacob Rubeck well before their weathered and tempered album release. Though it invokes fantastical and scenic imagery, Heaven Surrounds You is legendary in its own right through its unique, hardy way of mixing of sounds.
Heavenly, folklore-like harmonizing vocals in “Maps to the Stars” collide with long, ringing guitar notes, frantic drumming and spacy chords. A brief orchestral accompaniment sends off the last few guitar strums that mark the strong opening to an album of colossal emotional energy, strength, timing and skill.
“Labyrinth” is host to a dizzying, mobile sort of sounding percussion alongside an initially hectic and clashing yet later wandering set of guitar riffs. Roots take a strong hold in Wild West-esque progressions, here and in much of Heaven Surrounds You. Nonetheless, this track is distinguishes itself through the plush, swaying vocal hooks and eventually its magical guitar ascension outro.
“Disco” takes that same mobility and creates a very bouncy beat that starts, stops and spars with the guitar. It’s likely the danciest and happiest song in the album. What follows is a much more hollowed and reflective album, with “River’s Edge” launching into an emotionally vacant, gloomy jam that only relents during its bridge. The guitar here does solid work, propelling the feelings of release and tranquility during the jetting bridge, and evoking a simultaneous sense of activity and history in its abyssal space.
“Midnight Cowboy” takes on a marching style of percussion and lone or occasionally flurrying guitar notes back it up. The wanton vocals are king in this track, however, and echo heartfully along a varied track.
In the following “Hour of the Wolf,” higher guitar notes only break out during the choruses, as its verses hauntingly carry its pounding drums, dark bass and spooky, drawling singing. There’s an almost supernatural air to it and the song lurches from death to rebirth. Its verses’ vocals are absolutely enthralling in their morose waltz and the stormy, Frankenstein-sounding concoction of a guitar riff electrifies the song every time it comes around.
“Dead Ringer,” on the other hand, dishes out rapid bursts of some of the most vigorous drum fills of the album, and the percussion continually emits a sense of adrenaline, yet the vocals and guitar only sound significantly memorable at all in its culmination.
Rolling drums remain and starry keys dot “Safe” for its instrumental fills, whisking the journey into a reprieve where energy flickers in through its jubilant intermissions, celebrating or savoring temporary moments of lonesomeness.
And carrying over from that joyousness, “Memory” is a sleepy tune that maintains the anomaly of upbeat stretches within the album by pacing between more loose and somber verse to knit and powerful choruses.
A nice, sorrowful atmosphere is brewed in “Opera,” and trailing guitar notes lead the track through a very classic and familiar sort of feeling to it, which makes it sound like it could open for an ’80s TV show but also doesn’t make it stand out too much on the album.
“Trust” deceptively starts off slow and solid, then it breaks out in scaling and angelic sets of vocals for its lyricless choruses. These are another portion of the vocals’ moments where Nick truly shines, ringing the air in a ghostly and triumphant release fueled by its howls and backed by a furious guitar. The drums here are also commendable, thudding along to spectacularly carry its rising vocals up and into the sky.
And finally, ending on both a high note and a more optimistic one, “Jamie” runs about with bright cowboy riffs and crooning vocals. It produces a mellow and satisfying sort of feeling, leading into a less instrumentally filled break of a bridge in an ode to the people existing, augmenting and simply being in his life. The closing track then dips into a long drum and guitar duet of a distancing, positive and prophetic for its finale.
While it can be daunting and at times a little scary, Surf Curse has nailed the feeling of bubbling emotion. It’s difficult to not enjoy Heaven Surrounds You on the whole as it adeptly alternates between its stored curses and blessings. From the start, it promises a ride into the sunset that gallops on with many moments of admirable grit and electrified bolts of pure guttural feeling, whether fleeting or resplendent.
Cory Koehler is a junior in the College of Arts and Sciences. He can be reached at [email protected]