Surfer Blood’s first album, “Astro Coast,” was a distorted electronic pop-rock album full of indie hits. Their sophomore release, “Pythons,” cleans up the sound and makes it slightly more poppy.
This change has equal pros and cons. While the first album had a really unique and interesting sound, “Pythons” ventures into a more mainstream territory, but they still maintain their off-beat sound. The album is full of catchy beats that anchor each song nicely, along with frontman John Paul Pitts’ truly melodic and crooning voice. A lot of indie rock is missing the element of a truly great singer, but Surfer Blood has struck gold with Pitts. Overall, though the album seems less novel then the first, it is still a solid record.
The album opens up with “Demon Dance,” a heavy rock song akin to the songs in “Astro Coast.” Despite its heaviness, the refined sound still shines through. The song builds throughout, and the band’s chanting in the background swells near the end of the song, making it a good jumping-off point for the album.
Then we move to “Gravity” and “Weird Shapes,” two songs with more pop flavor that I would compare to a rocky-er version of the band “Telekinesis.” Although more poppy, both of these songs succeed as two of the best on the album. They have catchy tunes and lyrics, such as “I think we both can see our gravity/ Is keeping our orbits in place/ We’ve been around the sun together as one.”
Up next is “I Was Wrong,” a slow-building rock song that ends in more of the frenetic guitar and distorted chanting in the background present in “Demon Dance.” This demonstrates the dichotomy of the album: It’s either more poppy or more distorted, with the band vacillating between these two extremes. Following “I Was Wrong” is “Squeezing Blood,” which bridges the two sounds. It has the refined pop in the verses but moves into a harder distorted rock in the chorus, making the song succeed tremendously.
Then we have “Say Yes To Me,” which mirrors that technique from “Squeezing Blood.” However, it is not nearly as engrossing—not for any particular reason, but it just doesn’t work as well. Following is the more poppy “Blair Witch” that returns to the catchy beats seen early in the album. Again, however, it’s not quite as good as those earlier songs.
The band explores a slower territory with the next two songs, “Needles and Pins” and “Slow Six.” Both are decent efforts but not standouts. The album definitely hits a lull around this area, not only in sound but also in the quality of the music, giving it a front-loaded sense.
The last song is “Prom Song,” one of the better songs on the album. It has the refined poppy sound that marks the album. The next songs are bonus tracks, but be sure to download them, as they are two of the album’s best. “Bird 4 U” is a rollicking surfer-pop song that is both catchy and well done. “Phantom Limb” has more of the distorted rock sound but with a slightly lighter feel. These two songs should really have been more than bonus tracks, as they’re far superior to some of the middle songs and give a better ending to the album.
“Pythons” is a solid effort by Surfer Blood, but after “Astro Coast,” it’s hard not to feel a little let down. The album has some truly great songs in “Gravity” and “Squeezing Blood,” along with few others, but it does not succeed as a complete album. By no means is “Pythons” a terrible album or even a bad one, it just does not meet the high standard set by the truly great “Astro Coast.”