Beach Fossils : Somersault

Whenever summer rolls around you always hope to find that “summer album”. You know, that record you put on and open the windows to breathe in some of that fresh air. Free your mind of whatever’s been bugging you and just soak up some catchy, breezy tunes. It’s the the road trip album. The album you pull at least three or four songs off of and put on mixes for your less music savvy friends. And there’s at least two or three of those timeless songs that seem to live in their own little musical universe. They can exist within the times we currently live in, or 40 years ago in some other life. Maybe it’s not what you’d consider a classic, but it’s classic for the moment you’re existing in right now.

I have found that album, and it’s Beach Fossil’s excellent Somersault.

I wasn’t all that into Beach Fossils’ self-titled debut LP. You could hear the songwriting chops, but the production made the songs sound distant to my ears. But in 2013 Dustin Payseur and a new line-up released the excellent Clash The Truth. It was a warm and fuzzy collection of post-punk and early 80s alternative sounds, like old R.E.M. mixing it up with Joy Division. It was one of my favorite albums of 2013. Now, four years later we have Somersault. It’s a collection of tight, soulful tunes that often take the form of inner city confessionals. There’s something very modern and current with this record, yet there’s also this early 70s vibe that makes you think of gritty, Red Hook streets and Brownstones hiding a summer sunset.

“This Year” is the grand entrance to the world of Somersault. It cascades through the speakers like the Byrds and Blue Oyster Cult hammering it out during an evening of watershedding ghosts and vices. It’s perfection. “Tangerine” slinks in quickly like a pleasant memory through an open window as you light up another cigarette. Payseur really shows his writing chops here, with a mix of angst-y rhythmic constructs and almost jazz-inflected chord changes. Yet despite the technical prowess the song flows like a classic from another time. It helps that Slowdive’s Rachel Goswell helps out in the vocal department. Another classic sounding track is “Saint Ivy”. Loping groove, tasteful strings, and Payseur’s sleepy vocal delivery bring to mind old label mate Wild Nothing’s Jack Tatum’s masterful turns on last year’s Life of Pause. There’s even one hell of a flute solo. Seriously, tasteful. This whole album feels like a well fussed-over summer classic.

Elsewhere “May 1st” might remind one of those New Jersey cats Real Estate. There’s a melancholy lean in there that Martin Courtney and company like to work up in nearly every one of their tracks, but Beach Fossils let the song breathe and roam as it may. It’s carefree, not fussed over. “Rise” is a quick number with Memphis rapper Cities Aviv taking the spotlight. One of the absolute highlights for me is the exquisite “Down The Line”. It pulls back a bit and lets the bass take the lead with guitar coming in for some tasteful accompaniment. It feels like an ode to the city streets that make the band what it is. It could be an ode to a lover, a friend, or the city itself. Regardless, there’s some real feeling here. “Be Nothing” is like a cross between Jane’s Addiction and The Church, with that bass leading the track into crystalline sonics. “That’s All for Now” goes back to the early days of Beach Fossils, but with a more confident vibe.

Fade to black.

Beach Fossils have given me that great summer album I’ve been waiting for(still digging you, Real Estate.) Somersault from start to finish is a beauty. It has that feeling of deja vu, as if you heard it in another life. Like some ghostly album delivered to you by a giving universe. Dustin Payseur has made his best record yet.

8.4 out of 10

 

 

“We’ll Go Down The Line”

It’s been a rough couple of days, so not much to report here. Lots of rain and some disturbing news about a friend. I’ve found solace in the last two days in the band Beach Fossils of all things. I’ve really liked this band since their debut, and especially their last album Clash The Truth. They’ve got a nice jangle to them to where they remind me of both old school R.E.M. and Power, Corruption & Lies-era New Order. Basically early 80s alternative without any doom or gloom. Bass guitar is up front and the guitar lays down some nice melody. Vocals are sweet but not overpowering. I’d been revisiting Clash The Truth for the past couple weeks on and off, thinking about writing about it when I heard their new single “Down The Line”. It’s hard to describe how much this track has hit me. It’s eloquent in its simplicity. Beach Fossils seem to be taking a page out of the Real Estate book and taking a beautifully stoned approach to their sound. A slinky bass line pushes the song forward while echoed guitar adds an air of melancholy. The lyrics seem to hit a melancholy plea with lines like “I’m thinking of you fondly/When I’m on the train/I really hate your poetry/You hate mine the same” and “These days I feel like I do nothing right/So come with me and we’ll go down the line“. There’s a feeling of regret and longing here that I can relate to. If this new album, which is called Somersault and is coming out in June, is filled with tracks like “Down The Line” then this will easily be one of my favorite albums of the year.

So go tell those you love you love them, and if things are getting heavy for you let someone know that you need help. You’re not alone. Hell, let me know. I’ll be here for you. I’ll just be here listening to Beach Fossils for the umpteenth time.

 

Oh yeah, this song is pretty amazing too.

 

And this, too. Jesus.

Beach Fossils: Clash The Truth

Beach-Fossils-Clash-The-TruthWay back in 2010 Beach Fossils put out this lo fi gem of a debut. It sounded like it was recorded in a 8 X 12 space, Dustin Payseur accompanied by nothing more than the light of the day as it shone through the bedroom window. You got the feeling of genuine joy coming through each Byrds-y guitar note. It was a nostalgia trip that you never wanted to come to the end of. It was the sound of The Troggs getting mellow with Roger McGuinn. The vocals were blanketed in just enough reverb, the guitars were just jangly enough, and just enough sandy grit to make you question whether this was a modern record or some long lost nugget Captured Tracks reissued for us not in the know. Nearly three years, a couple singles and on e.p. later Payseur has followed up that debut with Clash The Truth. It’s got the sheen of a full-on studio production, the heft of a full band, and dark undertones of a guy that has gone through a thing or two in the last 3 years. At first listen, you’ll nod your head acceptingly. Maybe you’ll wonder what happened to that little scamp that gave us such a rough-around-the-edges classic just a couple years ago. Then after the second listen, you’ll want to listen to it a third time. By then, you’ll be hooked.

Clash The Truth opens with the title track and it’s a perfect opening to this record. The sonic difference is immediate. Gone is the sandy graininess. You can make a great indie album, even without the 4-track and third generation cassette, and Beach Fossils prove that within the first 20 seconds of this album. It’s a driving track, with a solid rhythm section and a ringing guitar line as Payseur introduces us to the grown up Beach Fossils. When I first heard ‘Generational Synthetic’ a couple months ago I wasn’t sure what to think of it. It was in that grey zone for me. Once I heard it in the context of this album though it clicked. There’s a warmth to the rhythm -throughout the entire album- that pulls you into the record. The snare snaps, the bass pulls you along like a kid wanting to show you his art project. Despite the new sonic landscapes, you still fall for Payseur’s joy for making music. ‘Sleep Apnea’ is a song that had it appeared on the debut it wouldn’t have had the heft that it possesses on Clash The Truth. It’s a slow-burning track filled with longing. ‘Careless’ bounces along like a lost New Order track. ‘Shallow’ brings to mind one of Payseur’s peers bands; Jack Tatum’s Wild Nothing. There are many that attempt this sleight-of-hand trick of resurrecting the untouchable 80s 4AD years, but only a few do it as well as Dustin Payseur and Jack Tatum. ‘In Vertigo’ sounds like IRS-era R.E.M. Part jangle, part ragged beauty. ‘Caustic Cross’ sounds like a not-so pissed Interpol. ‘Crashed Out’ ends Clash The Truth on a driving, yet melancholy note.

Clash The Truth isn’t the scrappy little lo fi record that Beach Fossils debut was. It’s got a studio shine on it that some will pooh pooh about. Well, if you want grit and grain, go check out the new GBV. Dustin Payseur has moved onto new sounds and bigger ideas. With Wild Nothing and former bandmate Zachary Cole Smith’s band Diiv releasing two of 2012s best records in Nocturne and Oshin respectively, you’d think Beach Fossils might’ve been a little nervous. Clash The Truth proves, nervous or not, Dustin Payseur does his best work under pressure.

9 out of 10