Surfer Blood – Tarot Classics EP
Record Label: Kanine Records
Release Date: October 25, 2011
A while ago, in his review for The Antlers’ fantastic release Burst Apart, Jeremy Aaron compared us all, dead-on correctly, to mindless drones waiting for the next distraction to momentarily keep us from, well, whatever we’re hiding from. 2011 could be called the Year Of a lot of things. But maybe the best way to describe this ridiculous time period is just the Year of Nothing. When everything comes and goes and comes and fades into ironic coffeeshop fodder, what’s the point of even caring about anything? If everything is just a stepping stone to another stepping stone, it’s easy to feel like our forward progress is actually just us walking in circles.
Now that’s some pessimism. And I don’t feel bad about it, because you made me this way. And by you I mean me, because that certainly explains how I leapfrog from dumb thing to dumber thing. But I guess at some point I must discuss how, somehow, Surfer Blood sidestep this tumbling boulder we call youth culture. And it’s not just because John Paul Pitts and the boys play a retro rock music owing more to 1960’s beach movies than I Know What You Did Last Summer. It’s because there are layers to this music that only present themselves when you think you’ve figured it all out. Tarot Classics so efficiently sets to buoyant, energetic music a viewpoint that is not only discontent but increasingly disinterested. And it’s all somewhat hidden, because party tunes these can still be.
But what you realize on a song like opener “I’m Not Ready” or closer “Drinking Problem” isn’t the ease with which you bob your head; it’s how Pitts wraps real life in between music from a fantasy world. When he sings in his deeply nonchalant way, “So you found someone new / To lap up your shit for a while” or “You think you’ve got a problem / Baby you don’t think enough / At least I know who my friends are,” it is kind of a smack in the face. In a good way. Especially in “Drinking Problem,” which folds a loner mentality into a bass-bumping, afro-influenced rhythm section. The point is, or whatever, that Surfer Blood, through their seemingly disparate parts, remind us that not everyone is trying to crash and burn just for the fucking hell of it. And so while we’re all still definitely sitting glassy-eyed in front of a multitude of screens, it doesn’t have to be for nothing. Those screens can still bring us something fresh, even if we aren’t quite ready to recognize the innovation when it presents itself.
I don’t know. Maybe I’m having a bad day or month. Maybe “Miranda” woke me up with its finger-picking good guitar solo. Who EVER knows. It’s just that Surfer Blood could easily be pigeonholed as something fleeting or shallow. Yet in a fairly short time they’ve created a reputation as being able to add profundity to a generation who wants nothing of the sort. Which isn’t to say that Surfer Blood are some sort of gateway drug to the world of “Stuff That Means Something.” All I’m saying, probably poorly, is that even though we are all so disconnected, there is still plenty out there worth connecting to.
Recommended If You Like: The Beach Boys, Real Estate, Vampire Weekend (according to allmusic??)
Nice review, Blake. Just wrapped up my review on this yesterday. I'm pretty obsessive about this band, so of course I absolutely loved it. It's funny what you say in your review about music this year. I was just saying how 2011 wasnt nearly as mind-blowing as 2010, but there definitely stuff to take away - Tarot Classics being among them. This band is really special to me and they prove time and again why I think that. This bamd perfectly captures being in your early 20s and that's why I love it so much. Can't wait for LP2.
Soooo tired of ChillWave. Saw these guys play for free in downtown Raleigh, they were pretty boring, but I still had a good time. The insanely fan girlish guys standing in front of me had me laughing my ass off the whole time. The band even invited one of them on stage, and in absolutely glee he skipped and jumped his way on stage, and just danced like some crazy homoerotic gogo dancer. Awesome.