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