Album Review: Beach Fossils – What a Pleasure EP

Sometimes the name of a band is enough to conjure emotions, memories, or even sounds, whether or not the band in question has actually been heard before. This phenomenon is especially true for bands with seafront-themed names, like Beach Fossils. Surf rock revival was all the rage in 2010, thanks to breakthrough acts like Best Coast, Wavves, and Surfer Blood. Beach Fossils somehow slipped under my radar the first time around, but my name-based assumption of a sunny mix of catchy hooks and reverbed guitar riffs under a lo-fi haze proved reasonable. However, the Brooklyn band’s self-titled debut was more than a surf rock revival, instead strongly rooted in 80s British indie pop.

Bridging Beach Fossils’ debut and their upcoming sophomore album (to be released later in 2011) is the What a Pleasure EP. There is one difference immediately noticeable on the opening interlude, “Moments”, and the title track. Formerly a lo-fi outfit, Beach Fossils have adopted lush production on What a Pleasure. The title track is more jangle pop than surf rock, but still equally nostalgic.

Rather than bringing to mind lazy summer days, Dustin Payseur’s dreamy vocals on “Fall Right In” evoke a feeling of nostalgic longing, as if the times had recently passed, and passed too soon. On “Out of the Way”, the EP’s crisp production complements the hazy pop perfection of the long-rumored collaboration with Jack Tatum, aka one-man band Wild Nothing. The influence of Wild Nothing is so strong that the reverbed twee of “Face It” could have passed for a second alliance.

Payseur’s understated, laid-back vocals are contrasted by a propulsive bass groove on “Calyer”, and closer “Adversity” ends the EP on a hypnotic note. On What a Pleasure, the carefree, lazy summer day beach pop sound of Beach Fossils has remained intact, just with refinements. Overall, What a Pleasure is essentially the Beach Fossils sound with the fuzz and some of the reverb stripped away. As expected from a transitional release, it’s not a drastic shift, nor is it any better or worse, but it changes things just enough to keep the EP from being overly familiar.


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