Upon first listen, Brooklyn-based Beach Fossils self-titled LP seems like the epitome of the chilled-out summer album. They’ve got two plunking guitars, weaving poppy lines around a distant bass line. The drums bump and thud along with the occasional tambourine rattle, the pace never accelerating above a stroll. And, of course, it wouldn’t be 2010 without the ubiquitous reverbed-out vocals, which blanket the entire record in a dreamy, washed-out haze. With these ingredients, Beach Fossils deliver about what you’d expect: mellow pop that speaks to the lazy days of deep summer, and recalls the shimmering of hot air rising off concrete and that unique feeling of exhaustion that only comes after a day spent outdoors doing absolutely nothing.
At their best, Beach Fossils conjure memories of Peter Bjorn and John, circa 2006, when the absurdly catchy “Young Folks” became the theme for the summer and seemed to be playing out of every orifice imaginable that could be affixed with a speaker *. Beach Fossils aren’t going to find themselves in any AT&T commercials like PB&J (they’ll need more bongos and songs that start with whistling for that), but in songs like “Youth,” “Vacation,” and “Daydream,” they turn out irresistible, shimmering, lo-fi pop that many will leave on repeat through the last days of August.
Unfortunately, over eleven tracks — mostly of lesser versions of the three previously mentioned — Beach Fossils can’t maintain their cool. The lackadaisical chill-out drags just a bit to long, and the relaxing freedom of youthful summertime ennui begins to sound like affected indifference, drenched in reverb. The album comes to an uninspired end with its final track “Gathering.” The song — basically a minute and a half of ocean sound effects and a meandering bass-line — gives the impression that the band ran out of ideas, and then gave up.
Despite the shortcomings of the record as a whole, Beach Fossils have mastered lo-fi Brooklyn pop, and if they figure out a way to build on this sound and break up the monotony, they’ve got a truly excellent sophomore effort in their future. For now, they should be content with an LP good enough to serve as the soundtrack to many a Brooklynite’s mid-August rooftop relaxation. There are plenty of bands in Brooklyn who would torch their flannels for that honor.
* Let’s not speak of how the single, and the album Writers Block on which it appeared, reached maximum saturation far too quickly, and continued to get played almost everywhere, until those of us who had previously adored the song couldn’t stand to hear another note of it because all it began to reminded us of were AT&T commercials and standing in line at Target.
Beach Fossils LIVE!!!
Jun 18 – Middle East Upstairs – Cambridge, MA
Jun 19 – Mercury Lounge – New York, NY
Jun 22 – KUNG FU NECKTIE Philadelphia, PA
Jun 23 – DC9 – Washington D.C.
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– Thomas Seely