Surfer Blood: Snowdonia (2017) – Album Review

Snowdonia (2017) is the fourth full-length studio album from Florida’s indie/surf rock band, Surfer Blood. This their first since guitarist Thomas Fekete and Kevin Williams have departed from the band. I started listening to this band back in 2016, and took a liking to their first album, Astro Coast (2010). Their slightly more experimental rock intrigued me quite a bit, and I began listening to their other albums, and thought they were alright as well. When this album released, I immediately listened to it and thought it was great, but after a few weeks, kind of forgot about it. I decided to take a look back and re-evaluate my thoughts on it since I haven’t listened to it in a while.

There are some pretty fun songs on this album. Most likely my favorite track, “Dino Jay,” starts off with a few harsher guitar chords (in comparison to the rest of the album), but immediately bursts into a pretty fun little jam. The guitar licks on this song especially are pretty catchy and bright. The melody is pretty catchy and not overdone, like a lot of the other stuff on the album. It’s one of the simpler pieces on that album, but they executed it pretty well in my opinion.

Another one of my favorites, “Six Flags in F or G,” starts off a bit harsher once again, but it drags on a bit longer before breaking into another feel-good section much like its predecessor. The bass is what drives this song, and the repetitive chords can get a bit much after a while, but what I like about this song in particular is that its a stylistic change from the rest of the album. The warped sounds, filtered/layered voice, and lower octaves they explore are all kind of out of nowhere, and it’s a nice break from the rest of the songs. The distorted guitar licks that start around 2:30 are real nice, and overall the song is just a cool change of pace. Of course, the majority of the second half of the song transitions to the typical aesthetic of the album, but the beginning is pretty great and I love what they did with the trippy, white-noise effects as they end it off.

Now, while I enjoy those two songs a great bit, the rest of the album is pretty underwhelming. I typically appreciate Surfer Blood for their more experimental aspects, and lower-production-type stuff, and this is the opposite of that. The production quality of the album as a whole is much better than the rest of their work. While I wouldn’t call them a lo-fi band before, they weren’t glossed over like they are in this album. The album is also a lot more consistent with this dancable, bright, poppy aesthetic, which I don’t mind too much, but every song begins to sound super similar after a while. It gets super typical after a while, and just kind of tiring. I never got tired of John Paul Pitts’ voice on any of their previous albums, but I think the higher production quality puts more focus on it, rather than the instruments and effects. And while I don’t think he’s a poor singer, I think his range is pretty small, particularly on this project, causing me to get sick of it by the last couple songs.

Not all of the songs are poorly written, or executed necessarily. The eight-minute-long, “Snowdonia”, has some interesting and more almost psychedelic aspects, but I still don’t think it really strays from the same tone they set throughout the rest of it. It does have some cool sections, but the song as a whole isn’t super intriguing. Other songs like “Instant Doppelgangers,” and “Matter of Time,” just sound kind of cookie cutter with the rest of the album. Now, I know I’ve complained before about some albums not flowing super well, but this one takes the opposite end of the spectrum. I feel like this this album flows so well, and doesn’t change anything up, to where it almost ends up feeling like a 38 minute surf rock song. If you don’t add anything to spice it up, no one wants to listen to it.

Overall, it’s the songs aren’t individually very bad, but the one-dimensionality of the collection really hurts it. They stayed true to their genre, but a lot of the weird, eclectic personality of the band gets destroyed by this release. When I listen to one of my favorite releases from the band, “Slow Jabroni,” and go back to this, it’s night and day. Overall, I think this is a 4/10. The album doesn’t do anything eye-catching, and at the end of the day, that’s more or less what good music should do. Even my favorite tracks aren’t even close to my other favorites from the band’s past. The bright, softer aesthetic just doesn’t work when there’s nothing to really attract listeners. It’s a feel-good jam, but there’s millions of those.

Favorite Track(s): “Six Flags in F or G,” “Dino Jay”

Least Favorite Tracks(s): “Taking Care of Eddy,” “Matter of Time”

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