Formed in 2009 and releasing their first full-length album last year, Florida’s Surfer Blood have taken a few steps further into experimentation in their brand new EP “Tarot Classics”.
The first song, “I’m Not Ready”, is one of those feel-good pop/rock songs you’ve already heard from bands like Weezer or The Offspring, even the voice is similar to Dexter Holland’s and surprisingly echoes Morrissey’s during some verses. The lyrics talk about that time one of your friends took the wrong lane in life and ignored your advices, even though you were the only one who hadn’t given up on him or her. Pretty much all of us have already been there. The title “I’m Not Ready” fits the song perfectly: you can sense innocence in the guitar riff and softness in the way the instruments are played, as if the whole point of the song was to emulate the feeling of impotence you get when someone you are close to is taking the wrong direction, but you can’t do anything about it or you are just NOT ready to do so.
“Miranda” has a soft punk feeling to it. Simplicity is the key on this one: heartbroken lyrics, bar chords and a great and simple guitar solo. The last third of the song has a 60’s soft rock style to it, as well as a meandering guitar riff. Damn Miranda, you had a proper tribute: this is, without a doubt, the favorite song on the EP. It’s not the best, though…
“Voyager Reprise” is the most superbly assembled song, as well as the longest, on the entire EP. Surfer Blood went outside their comfort zone and used more effects and instruments other than the traditional bass, drums, and guitar combo. But after adding synthesizers, sirens, an acoustic guitar and strings without losing their essence, the band showcased an evolution in their sound and maturity in the way they craft songs these days. The first 78 seconds are a superb instrumental introduction to a great tune.
“Drinking Problem” is the last, the calmest, and the most experimental song in ‘Tarot Classics’. Using a drum machine, rain forest sounds, synthesizers, guitar feedback and a calm mood throughout the whole tune, “Drinking Problem” sounds like a mix between The Kills style and White Lies’ vocals (one could have believed it was a White Lies single if anybody had you so before hearing the EP). Bold and strange at the same time, and using multiple layers of sound, this last attempt is not something you would expect in the early days of Surfer Blood. Yet it pleasantly sticks in your head, especially with the chorus “at least I know who my, at least I know who my friends are”.
Certainly distancing themselves from “Astro Coast” and preparing us for their second full-length album, Surfer Blood might be using “Tarot Classics” as a bridge between their old style and their new sound. If you are expecting an anthem like “Swim” and its early The Who influence on their guitar strums or the Latin inspired rhythms in their first album (like their single ‘Take It Easy’), then this EP won’t fit in your music library.
But if you are willing to witness the evolution of a band and their musical growth, go ahead and pick their first record, enjoy it, sit down and then give their brand new ‘Tarot Classics” half an hour of your time: you could not be amazed at first, but if The Pixies and MGMT gave them a chance as their opening act, who are we for not giving a good EP a listen?
Jorge A. López Mendicuti
Guitarist, multi-instrumentalist, law school graduate, amateur writer and music fan