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Surfer Blood

Tarot Classics

Rating: 3.7/5.0

Label: Kanine Records

The debut of Surfer Blood in 2010 was remarkable for more than just the terrifying cover art. The checkerboard mosaic of a shark’s ravenous maw – ready, willing and oh-so-able to chomp any tasty limb straight through to the bone – gave little indication as to the delightfulness of the contents within. Astro Coast was much more about the surfer than the blood, hum-ready riffs zipped into your welcoming consciousness with the easy pull of a wetsuit’s draw cord. A nominee for many “Best of 2010” lists, demand is high for Astro Coast’s follow up album, curiosity piqued as the next full length will be released not through indie label Kanine Records, but instead thanks to the skyscraper execs at Warner Bros. And considering Surfer Blood is currently touring with the Pixies on their “Doolittle Tour,” they’re probably getting used to hanging out with big names, all the while shoring up their own.

So until the boom is lowered, we have Tarot Classics, a four song EP that you could listen to twice before your lunch break’s even over – and there may be no better way to spend it. Starting off with pop pleaser “I’m Not Ready” (even though they totally are), a pip of a single note guitar melody suggestive of happy mornings on a smiling planet solos over a timekeeping snare beat. The next phrase is a whole band meditation on the same, the guitar line doubling out into companionable two note harmonies. Ending with a coda that is just on the right side of darling (that is to say, purposely earnest and yet not overly cutesy), frontman J.P. Pitts sings about soda shop sentiments such as counting on each other and being honest and true. “Miranda” is another bedroom bopper, a song that could be over by the time it’s halfway through, but it picks up and folds over itself, proving that it’s never a tired idea to set an ode to a girl against some confectionary power chords and a galloping snare.

The (tiny) back half of Tarot Classics is B-side territory, which is not to say that it’s inferior material, just not as playlist-ready. “Voyager Reprise” sounds like the product of Surfer Blood’s common mind wanderings, Pitts letting some pliant “whoas” and “ahhs” traipse about over the course of measures. Closer “Drinking Problem,” the most atypical track of the collection, is Surfer Blood in the freezing future, Pitts’ reverbed vocal performance an echo unto itself over a minimalist key pattern. Whether these latter, more cerebral tracks are precursors for Surfer Blood’s upcoming material is anyone’s guess, but, if nothing else, the songs that comprise Tarot Classics suggest that the band is ripe for the challenge of the sophomore record. Sucks that it’s only four songs, but this 15 minute tease is enough to keep me interested.

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