Listen, I couldn’t really tell you what jangle pop is, but if that’s what the cool kids are calling Beach Fossils, I dig it. (I still don’t think it’s a thing, but the interwebs says it is, so it must be.) I’ve always really liked music that had melodic hooks, so maybe that’s what drew me in most about this album. All I know is one minute I was listening to “War on Drugs Spotify Sessions Radio” and the next Tangerine off of this album was seducing my ears with its almost ’90s moody ethereal guitar melody. Next up was Saint Ivy which truthfully didn’t get me until I heard the George Harrison-esque guitar break mid-song that had my stomach doing flips and swooning on its Beatles/60s vibes. I was hooked and dug into the rest of the album at that point.
I didn’t listen to this album in order to begin with, but according to lead singer Dustin Payseur that is how it was conceived and you can really hear that as one song weaves into the next. Each song flows so seamlessly into the next one and after relentlessly playing this album I still can’t tell if that’s a good thing. It’s hard to determine where one ends and a new one begins.
The thing I can appreciate about this though is how textured it is. I never really listened to this band before, but everything I’ve been hearing leads me to believe that they were experimenting hardcore during this album while trying to remain true to that surf guitar sound and melodic breaks. You can really hear it in songs like Rise where there’s this odd break in their ’60s surf sound that makes you feel like you’ve just walked into a ’90s Starbucks while a jazzy slam poet is performing. It doesn’t match anything else on the album, but if you listen to this song as a stand alone it totally works…for me anyway.
Then you hear songs like Social Jetlag and you get these really nice piano interruptions with a soft beat that is very reminiscent of an urban Zero 7 track. The flute solo only adds another layer of texture that seems like it might not work, but it does. That’s sort of the theme for me with this album. They’ve experiment with audible texture in a way that really works, yet technically wouldn’t make sense all the while leaving their breathy echo-like vocals and soft surf guitar as the foundation for everything. Without those textures added in, I’m not sure I’d like it as much as I do.
I have to say though lyrically there isn’t much there for this album. Although, maybe that’s just who they are: heavy on the musicality and simple/ambiguous on the lyrical front. They have really great moments though. During Rise you have this gut punch:
I wish it meant as much to me as it used to be
Does that make sense to you
That’s what you said to me, so
Honestly, somewhere between trust and honesty
Out there somewhere between yourself
And the true and living
Social Jetlag also has a sad undertone to it lyrically that seems to be about the cumbersome reality of a relationship with a time stamp. (Who hasn’t been there, am I right?) On this track they simply rely on the idea of starting over again and fading away and it’s sort of melancholy in a way that it becomes borderline haunting. Out of all the tracks though, Saint Ivy is probably the place that marries harmony and lyrics the best. Between it’s Beatles-esque guitar break in the middle and the lyric “Wanna believe in America/But it’s somewhere I can’t find”, you almost wonder if the tone lyrically and harmonically was intentional.
I’ve been listening to this album on repeat not only because I really wanted to tell you guys about it, but mostly because I was so intrigued by what I was hearing. These textures they are creating really hit a sweet spot for me. As a band they may not be at that spot in their career where they’re making their big break, but I think they’re inching closer with some of the hallmarks I’ve heard on this album. I’ll be interested to see how they evolve in the future as they continue to fine-tune their sound and explore lyrically and musically. Either way, if they ever come near me live, I loved what I’ve heard enough here to make it a must-see show.
Listen to this album if:
Surf guitar, strings and ethereal melodies are your thing.
Zero 7 meets The Beach Boys meets Deerhunter with a twist of The Mamas and the Papas (California Dreamin’)
If you like this, you’ll also like:
The War on Drugs
Not a Spotify fan? No problem. Here’s the album playlist from YouTube. Let me know what you think in the comments below!