‘Carefree Theatre’ by Surfer Blood Projects a Broad Musical Nostalgia

Surfer Blood | Carefree Theatre | (Kanine)
3.5 / 5 Stars

Considering the recent 10-year anniversary for Surfer Blood’s debut album, Astro Coast, it’s easy to dive into the band’s fifth album, Carefree Theatre, with hopes or even expectations of music made through a creative lens set entirely in a retrospective position. In some ways this idea rings true. Starting with the album’s title, which pays homage to the storied West Palm Beach venue of John Paul Pitts’ childhood, and moving to faint echoes of the hook from Astro Coast’s “Fast Jabroni” in new song “Karen,” reminiscence ripples out from the 11 new tracks. However, the nostalgia doesn’t always revolve explicitly around the band’s past. Much of the album’s overall character projects musical nostalgia that touches more broadly on classic compositional forms or performance styles.

Despite the relaxed tempo and even-keeled rhythms of “Dessert Island,” the opener flies by, thanks to the vocal melody teasing near-mirrored phrasing in its primary motif. Chords resolve with a decisive completeness that makes the song effortless for sing-alongs, and individual vocal harmonies only enhance that feeling of ease with even more comforting pitch alignment. 

Similar sonic steadiness is written for the harmonies in songs like the title track and “In My Mind.” Penultimate track “Dewar” offers snug harmonizing, too. Yet small but vital changes in regard to instrument and timbre prioritization in the former two songs place the vocals among a rhythmic flow and denser tonal backdrop that feels steered by The Beach Boys. Meanwhile, the latter song, with its thin but warmly rounded guitar tone and harmonies that traverse chromatic notes, sounds like music channeling The Beatles’ later catalog. 

Given Surfer Blood’s appreciation for the qualities of surf rock and pop, a conventional approach toward melody and harmony recurring in many of Carefree Theatre’s tracks is understandable. Nonetheless, it isn’t a detriment to the album’s collective listening appeal.

We talked with the band about the latest project. Check out that interview.

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