by Stephen Veith (@quakeroats91)
Baltimore band Surf Harp are like the salmon of the Pacific Northwest, swimming upstream to their goal. On their latest record, Mr. Big Picture, it feels like they’ve finally reached the top of the mountain and are ready to set up camp. With their funky art rock filled with interesting and sporadic piano and electronic breaks on their first track “Patient Fist,” the tone is set that you’re in for something unique. As the album progresses with songs like “D.I. Cig” (which they’ve just released a video for), influences stand out in Phil Bolton and Jeff Koplovits' vocals, echoing Devo and XTC with their own palatable twist. Angular guitar parts and swelling keyboards lead in complete yet controlled chaos with sputtering guitar lines by Aaron Perseghin and Koplovitz, inserting glitches and what appears to be an angelic choir filling the background. Bolton’s echoed vocals layer the song as drummer Chris Sweeny provides engaging drumming to round out the fact that this band has no weak member.
As you work through the album, the tones change without losing a consistent style or concept. "Robby In The Office," a ballad to cubicle work without missing a beat of their weird styling, still breaks into synth heavy interludes filled with xylophone and the standout bass playing by Ryan Zadera. The concept of the daily grind in the office continues throughout the record without losing Surf Harp's unique ability to incorporate a menagerie of instruments without the album feeling as if its overfilled or cacophonous. Everything is balanced, and that’s Surf Harp's best quality, the ability to incorporate not only a huge amount of sounds but also styles.
This is one of the most fun records in a long time, free of the pitfalls of lackluster pop, each song manages to stay light and interesting while still covered in catchy vocal melodies and swelling vocals. Record stand-out “I Lost You” has one has one of the best guitar lines and full band crescendos in quite a long time.
In comparison to their last record, Peel, it seems that Surf Harp have really found the shoe that fits. The heavily consumerism and malaise of office life has some how inspired a bright and interesting record as opposed to what you would usually hear from a record about monotony – this seems to be the antithesis. The vocal delivery, instrumentation, and incorporation of such a wide array of sound into this ‘computer rock’ really solidifies as one of the best records of the year so far.