Fire Note Says: Surfer Blood stay true to their roots after their loss.
Album Review: Surfer Blood lost Thomas Fekete, their original drummer, to cancer in 2016. He had left the band a year earlier to receive medical treatment; the band raised funds for his treatment in 2015 and 2016. Snowdonia is Surfer Blood’s first album without Fekete. It’s an important step forward for the band in both their musical career and their grieving process.
You won’t hear an elegy on Snowdonia though. The band doubles down on its guitar-centric jangle and experiments with their sound in a way that hasn’t been heard since their debut. There are no overt “dark songs” nor are their obvious tributes to Fekete. The album is peppered with hints about him throughout but the lyrics could be read in different ways. It’s an interesting choice to make, to let the music speak for itself, and Surfer Blood is successful with that direction.
“Carrier Pigeon” is a lyrically-dense album closer that suggests themes of loss. It’s upbeat nonetheless but never swells to a chorus. Its stream of consciousness doesn’t lend itself to typical song construction. The guitar work is intricate and technical; John Paul Pitts’ voice keeps it sweetness without becoming syrupy. This track doesn’t bring much attention to itself with the first listen, but it’s worth a lot more than that.
Surfer Blood is surprisingly playful on Snowdonia. “Taking Care of Eddy” and “Six Flags in F or G” both implement key changes to different effect. The former has a frenetic pace to start, slows down with a dreamy interlude, and then doubles down on the chaos at its end. The latter sounds like a spaghetti western come to life. And then it shifts into a 60’s-style guitar pop song. It’s confusing but again, the guitars really shine.
Snowdonia is a true album. Surfer Blood changes things up from track to track, something that their past two albums didn’t do as much of. It lacks a single to get more ears on it, which is one of the few criticisms that can be made about it. Fans of Surfer Blood should be delighted to have their band come back from tragedy with consistency, grace, and courage to keep growing.
Key Tracks: “Carrier Pigeon” / “Instant Doppelgangers” / “Six Flags in F or G”
Artists With Similar Fire: Band of Horses / Real Estate / Best Coast
Surfer Blood Website
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Joyful Noise Recordings
– Reviewed by Matthew Heiner