Release Date: May 12, 2015
Record label: Joyful Noise
Genre(s): Pop/Rock, Alternative/Indie Rock, Alternative Pop/Rock, Indie Rock
Five years isn’t really a long time, but in the lifespan of a band half a decade can feel like an eternity. Back in 2010, Florida’s Surfer Blood were riding high on the success of Astro Coast (deservedly so, considering how great that record is. Go back and listen to "Swim" to jog your memory). A year later, the band released an EP, Tarot Classics, and busied themselves with endless touring, including a dream stint opening for the Pixies.
After their major-label dalliance with 2013's Pythons, Surfer Blood returned to their indie roots with 1000 Palms, a strictly D.I.Y. affair recorded in an attic studio above a doctor's office and the home of drummer Tyler Schwarz's parents. The album often feels more like a sigh of relief than a breath of fresh air; the band hasn't sounded this relaxed since Astro Coast, and at times, they come close to recapturing their debut's exuberance.
Having made the switch from major label to legendary indie, Surfer Blood’s chilled-out brand of indie-pop hasn’t really changed that much – but they’re clearly keen for you to think it has. Third album ‘1000 Palms’ isn’t completely cohesive, with the tracklisting seemingly random and changes between songs less than seamless. Second track ‘Island’ would have made a better opener, for instance, than the cliche-ridden ‘Grand Inquisitor’, which sees frontman John Paul Pitts sing: “Time waits for no-one” (see also: the idiom-based ‘Feast/Famine’, which is a great track, especially when backing vocals appear towards the end).
By now, Surfer Blood’s sunny melodies have become synonymous with something much darker: frontman John Paul Pitts’ arrest for domestic battery in March of 2012. Although Pitts maintains that he didn’t hit his then-girlfriend and the charges were eventually dismissed, the incident sullied his band’s reputation significantly enough that, for a time, other bands refused to tour with them. Their 2013 sophomore release, Pythons, drew heavily on this rocky relationship for its source material.
Three albums, in five years, on three different labels. Why can’t Surfer Blood just settle down? A career that began with the ambitious Astro Coast on Brooklyn’s upstart Kanine Records moved swiftly into the disjointed, yet still flashy Pythons on major label Warner Bros. Now, Surfer Blood has moved on yet again and finds itself back on the indie circuit, this time with 1000 Palms, released on the eclectic Joyful Noise Recordings.
Surfer Blood’s mildly received second album, 2013’s Pythons, should have ideally relieved some of the pressure in making their third, 1000 Palms. With so much distance between the thrilling fuzzy pop of their debut Astro Coast, the public expectations of 1000 Palms weren’t exactly frenzied. Surfer Blood needed to capitalize, to revitalize an audience that had forgotten and abandoned them when the early ‘10s beach rock craze died out.
1000 Palms, the third LP from surf-pop-grunge quartet Surfer Blood, could hardly have been released in more dramatic circumstances. After their first major label LP release, Pythons, the group decided to ditch the big-league contract and return to a more hands-on approach to recording. But the drama of label politics and back-room recording sessions have been overshadowed by something that no one could have anticipated when the group first caught our eye back in 2010.
You know about the big releases each week, but what about those smaller albums which may have passed underneath your radar. Don’t miss out on the smaller, lesser-known gems which might become some of your favourites. We’ve rounded up six of the best new album releases from this week: catch up ….
1000 Palms is such an upbeat record from a band plagued by significant problems over the last few years, namely a domestic battery charge against singer/guitarist John Paul Pitts and the exit of guitarist Thomas Fekete earlier this year due to his being diagnosed with sarcoma in his lungs and spine. (Donate to his medical fund at surferblood.com.) But somehow the Florida four-piece tapped into their sunny side, crafting 11 fuzz-free, buoyant songs full of pep and good cheer. At least musically.