Tuesday, May 25, 2010
Album: Beach Fossils
Captured Tracks, 2010
Rating: ******* (7/10)
Here's a shocker! I don't hate the Beach Fossils album (self-titled, out today). I really thought I would, cause when I saw this band live, they just annoyed me and my tolerance has certainly not grown over time. But I have to admit, this album has its moments that are not just passable, but actually good.
Now, let's not get carried away. Beach Fossils still sound pretty much like the 9,000 other reverby, lo-fi-ish indie bands that are so popular right now. You know, the kind that make up 95% of Todd P bills and 50% of Stereogum playlists. But as I remarked after the last show, this band is definitely better in than most of them - they have good songs and hooky melodies and even some variance, track to track.
The opening track, though hitting it off in a major key, seems to herald something subtly sinister. Post-punk darkness casts a shadow over the sound. In fact, despite the name, this band little to do with surf and sun - the jangly reverb may take a page from Brian Wilson's book, but the melodies are more British post punk and even C86 than they are surf. In other (non-geek) words, the tunes are at once tight and open, warm and melancholy. "Vacation" is the perfect example - measured vocal harmonies over sparkling, appreggiated guitar chords and a quick but hushed, marchy beat.
A little further on, "Twelve Roses" finds the guitar with a richer, more immediate tone while a simple earworm of sung melody rings out in warm layers. "Daydream" falls in and out of step in a touchingly human way, while "Golden Age" kicks out a stronger beat over which guitar and vocals meld to almost indistinguishable tones. Near the end, the explorative guitar riff and sad singing of "Wide Awake" obscure a soft, intensely poignant bass line.
The album also has its share of forgettable tracks, especially arriving as it does in the heyday of its genre. The jazzy bass on the closer, "Gathering," is way overdone (despite being low in the mix) while songs like "Youth" and "Window View" fail to stand out from so many similar songs by similar bands on similar albums.
Still, if we're going to pay attention to anyone in this bloated DIY scene, it may as well be Beach Fossils. There are some moments of real beauty and meaning on Beach Fossils and some signs of real talent. Do you need this album? No. But if this kind of stuff floats your boat, throw out Real Estate and make space on the shelf for these guys.