New Surfer Blood album review

By Micheal Barilleaux, The Circuit.

Surfer Blood is a band that has had no shortage of hardships in the past few years. The most no­table and tragic of these has been the loss of gui­tarist Thomas Fekete to a rare form of cancer just over a year ago. Nev­ertheless, the band has moved forward through these trying times with the use of music as their primary outlet. This outlet is most evidently manifested on Snowdo­nia.

Surfer Blood is no stranger to the indie/al­ternative rock scene and Snowdonia’s polished sound is a testament to that. As the fifth project of their considerably successful career, this album couples the raw emotion of their lives with the guitar-driven, chorus-backed sound they have refined so well. There are a few stumbles throughout the project, however, and these prove to truly put a damper on things.

The main strengths of Snowdonia are found in its guitar work and the overall ambience it creates. Between lead singer/guitarist John Paul Pitts and guitarist Mike McCleary, chord progressions and in­dividual riffs are done quite beautifully as the sunny, surfer rock (no pun intended) vibe meets technical skill. The absence of the late Fekete is certainly missed on the guitars, but the band seems to make due in his honor.

Pitt’s singing, how­ever, coupled with his songwriting, is a bit of a sinkhole for the band on this record. Pitt’s vocals often come across as weak and weary, al­though this does pos­sibly reflect the current emotional reality of the band. Nevertheless, when this tired singing style is delivering equally lacking lyrics, things fall apart. One of the best examples of this is on the track “Six Flags in F or G” where Pitts sings:

One of these days

Gonna get to the heart

One of these days

When the bridge falls apart

One of these days

Right back at the start

One of these days

We’ll never be apart again

Now these aren’t terri­ble lyrics, but ultimately, they are not much more than a generic attempt at repeating things Pitts has said more eloquently in the past on more than one occasion. This isn’t the case for all of the albums lyrics, many of them are quite well-spo­ken, but when it hurts, it hurts.

The most interesting aspect of Snowdonia, however, is that while it is shadowed in the sadness of the band’s current reality, it is actually a great deal more laid back than much of their previous work. The tones and moods laid out on this record do not give off feelings of grief and despair so much as they tip their hats to Fekete, something that is surely worth commending.

Surfer Blood surely has not had it easy. The music they’ve made to express their emotions as a result of this is not perfect, that’s for sure. Nevertheless, Snowdo­nia brings fresh life to a band that needs a reason to lift their chins up and really doesn’t make for a bad listen through once or twice.