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Beach Fossils - "Somersault" | Album Review

by Allison Kridle

Shimmering guitar riffs, tambourines, a plugging bass, and vocals as soft as sand can be traced all the way back to the end of the 1950’s when surf rock reportedly first emerged. Until the surfy lo-fi indie band Beach Fossils formation in 2009, no other bevy of musicians strung these elements together as naturally and adroitly since The Beach Boys and The Ventures. While surf rock has the tendency to make listener’s daydream about catching waves, soaking up the sun, or whatever people who go to the beach do; Beach Fossils’ salty oasis is more of a placid storm. In other words, you don’t become quite as sun-soaked with Brooklyn’s Beach Fossils. 

First starting as Dustin Payseur’s solo project, Beach Fossils soon became a three piece consisting of John Pena (bass) also from Heavenly Beat and Christopher Burke (guitar). The threesome produced the EP Daydream / Desert Sand, their self-titled LP, and then What a Pleasure EP in 2011. After some band member and producer adjustments Beach Fossils put out perhaps their most well-received album, Clash the Truth, in 2013. 

Now with their latest release Somersault, Beach Fossils is sharing something new. The album opens with the mellow and gleaming track “This Year.” While you still hear textbook Beach Fossils with catchy melodies and a surfy bass line, the band incorporates an airy string section. It brings some elegance and grandeur I never thought I would hear from the lo-fi indie group. However, this latest instrumental inclusion isn’t the only tool the surfy group utilizes for a fresh atmosphere. Payseur brought in the Memphis rapper known as Cities Aviv in the song “Rise.” The short track includes a warm saxophone against subtle Mac Demarco-esque guitar riffs and Cities Aviv’s rich voice. At the end of the powerful monologue Cities Aviv says, “Honestly, somewhere between trust and honesty/ Out there somewhere between yourself/ And the true and the living/ Rise up.”  

Another glaring change of pace in Somersault, “Saint Ivy,” also features fluttery strings. A chirpy keyboard kicks off the track; and just when you thought it can’t get much better, a wispy flute adds a little garnish and a classic guitar style solo culminates the romantic song. The band played their baroque-ish rock card in “Saint Ivy,” reminiscent of The Lemon Twigs or Whitney to the extent that I sense an entirely different person wrote What a Pleasure way back when. Payseur sings in the first verse, “If you find a reason/ I’ll be gone in a matter of time/ This was your decision/ Oh you got me in a state of mind.” 

Even though Beach Fossils clearly spent their four-year break experimenting with a variety of instrumentals and sounds, practically rising from ashes, they didn’t stray far from their glimmering guitars, twangy melodies, and lo-fi roots especially evident in tracks “Tangerine” (featuring singer Rachel Goswell of Slowdive), “May 1st,” and “Down the Line.” As many people head to the ocean this time of year to break free from the mundanity of daily life or to reset, I suspect a lot of them will be listening to Beach Fossils and the band’s musically like-minded cohorts. However, Beach Fossils proved they aren’t just a band to be played to escape dreary weather--in fact, they even remind listeners of impenetrable gloom at times. With Somersault, the band continues to dig into the coast without actually being completely present there mentally or physically. They continue to make waves and show how refreshing it is to step away from the beach once in awhile.