Blissful Summer Songs
With a name that evokes beaches, waves and bikinis, Surf City is in fact a much more complex musical entity, blending elements of 90’s West Coast indie rock, shoegaze and psychadelia. True to their moniker, the foursome from Aukland, New Zealand, does add a light tinge of surf rock to many of their songs. Jekyll Island is the band’s third full-length release, and it arrives just in time to serve as the perfect summer playlist for those long, hot commutes to the beach.
Surf City consists of singer/guitarist Davin Stoddard and drummer Logan Collins, along with brothers Jamie and Josh Kennedy adding keyboards/guitar and bass, respectively. While Jekyll Island is not a radical departure from previous outings, Kudos and We Knew It Was Not Going to Be Like This, it does see the band improving their song structure and beefing up the track listing with hooky rock songs.
While there are quite a few traditional indie rock songs on Jekyll Island, “Beat the Summer Heat” leads the album off with a bit of a stylistic change-up. The album opens with a shimmering drone rhythm and bongo beat that gradually melts into the Neu!-inspired motorik rhythm, giving the listener the impression that all of the subsequent tracks are going to be a heavy psychedelic journey.
Instead, the following track, “Spec City,” is just about as straightforward a rock song as can be written. With a simple melodic guitar line and mid-tempo rock beat, the song recalls vintage Californian indie rock ala Pavement. Jekyll Island is packed full of tracks that follow this model; “One Too Many Things” and “Indian Summer” continue in its footsteps with jangling guitars, lazy, but intricately melodic guitar riffing, and laid-back vocal-work. Late in the album, “Thumbs Up” expands upon this West Coast indie-rock template by adding a touch of surf-rock drumming and riffing.
Vocally, Stoddard knows how to sweeten the deal, adding easygoing melodies to the verses and choruses of every single track on Jekyll Island. There are some slightly-bizarre moments on the record in which he starkly resembles some of classic rock’s most famous crooners; the two most notable examples being the Bono half-whisper on the bridge of “Jekyll Island and the Psycosphere” and the Joey Ramone-by-way-of-Tom Petty drawl of “Hollow Veins.”
The worst crime that the songs on Jekyll Island are guilty of is a relative lack of commonality. Though all of the songs certainly share a handful of aesthetic elements, Surf City does a lot of genre jumping throughout the course of the record. These dramatic shifts between songs make for a record that can be hard to fully identify with, even if there is not a single weak track.