Personnel: John Paul Pitts, Thomas Fekete (vocals, guitar); Kevin Williams (vocals, keyboards); Tyler Schwarz (drums); Dan Austin (programming).
Audio Mixer: Rob Schnapf.
Recording information: East West Studios, Los Angeles, CA.
Illustrator: Esteban Neumann.
Photographers: Frank Maddocks; Julia Pitts.
The two years between the Tarot Classics EP and Pythons weren't easy for Surfer Blood. In 2012, singer/guitarist John Paul Pitts was arrested for domestic battery; ultimately, charges were not filed and the case was dropped. When listening to the band's second album, however, it's hard to imagine that there were ever any clouds on their horizon: these are some of Surfer Blood's most lighthearted songs yet, and some of their slickest, too. For their major-label debut, they worked with producer Gil Norton, who has always excelled at bringing out the pop part of punk-pop bands ranging from the Pixies and Foo Fighters to Jimmy Eat World. There are definitely ties to those groups' work on Pythons, and as on Tarot Classics, Pitts and crew complement their bouncy melodies with driving rhythms and tasteful bursts of distortion. All of these are on display on the single "Weird Shapes," which tempers jaunty pianos with distant screaming reminiscent of the Pixies and especially Weezer, whose vulnerable to explosive dynamic shifts provide the template for songs like "I Was Wrong." At times, Surfer Blood are even more hooky and melodic than their influences on Pythons, with the heft of their earlier work replaced by catchy conciseness. Unlike Astro Coast, where the distortion and reverb that cloaked its songs added drama, here the standout tracks are often the lightest. There's an almost Morrissey (or Smoking Popes)-like croon to Pitts' vocals on the bittersweet "Say Yes to Me," and "Blair Witch" has one of the album's best balances of crashing guitars and toothsome melody. Surfer Blood also use their newfound polish to expand their sound, as on the Afro-pop-tinged "Squeezing Blood" and "Slow Six," a fittingly named waltz that manages to be somewhat heavy and hypnotic at the same time. The more the band embraces Pythons' slickness, the better it sounds; it's a pleasant, ingratiating set of songs that don't aim to be anything more than that. ~ Heather Phares