Photo by Asher Fritz
The last year or so the indie scene has been taken over by two factors: Brooklyn and the shoegaze, chillwave, lo-fi sound. With any music movement there is a mix of the good, the bad, and the ugly. One band that clearly falls into “the good” category is Brooklyn’s Beach Fossils. They manage to capture a laid-back sound, but don’t allow that slacker vibe to overpower it (et tu Wavves?).
Beach Fossils’ released their self-titled EP in May and ever since critics have clung to them as a prime example of the emerging lo-fi surf/chillwave sound that has claimed domination alongside bands like Real Estate, Best Coast, Surf City, etc. When I first listened to Beach Fossils’ EP back in July, I turned to my friend and lamented that I really liked them, but was worried that they were going to be a flash in the pan. I didn’t really see where they could go with what appeared to be a pigeonholed sound (reverbed vocals, references to lying in a field, etc). Then something happened, the fact that I couldn’t stop listening to the EP (and still can’t). In each listen I began to notice that the band had more to them then just a desire to ponder why the earth felt round.
A lot of critics have praised the band for the great execution of their lo-fi sound, but have overlooked the serious potential the band has to offer because of their slightly superficial song titles (Vacation, Lazy Day, and Daydream) and name. While their songs (and name) do present an airy energy, Beach Fossils also display maturity in their lyrics. People are quick to dismiss the lo-fi sound created by them and similar bands since it’s easy (and convenient) to write it off as simplistic and juvenile. What critics misconstrue as a blithe musical approach is the fact these bands are creating a distinct sound for our generation.
“The Reagan Babies” have gotten a lot of slack in the past year concerning our penchant for clinging to adolescence (Thanks NYT Magazine). There is truth found in this theory, this generation is stuck in a weird juxtaposition of childhood and adulthood. What makes Beach Fossils unique in a fairly crowded scene is their music’s mixture of youthful energy and seriousness, which accurately represents the unique dilemma facing our generation.
Their blend of relaxed energy and thoughtfulness shines in songs like the albums’ opening Sometimes. With its immediately beachy guitar hook and quick hitting beat, the instrumentals provide an energetic freshness, but what keeps the song from being dismissed as another group of guys utilizing Garageband is the lyrics. Payseur’s melodic voice perfectly describes the confusion and uncertainty our generation puts forth concerning life decisions (career, marriage, etc) when he mummer’s “I know I think too much, I know I waste my time, and I can’t figure out which one is yours or mine, that’s fine, I really couldn’t say I mind”. Sometimes could been mistaken for a jumble of vague reflections, a string of sentences that sound good together, but Payseur seems to have more understanding than that due to the album’s other songs.
Although the album is short (only 34 minutes long) each song offers a discretely distinct uninhibited maturity. Track seven, Golden Age starts off with birds chirping and a steady, cymbal driven beat followed by a decisive guitar plucked hook. What first appears to be a melody extolling the virtue of getting buzzed on a rooftop morphs into something deeper by song’s end. The title Golden Age serves as the lyrical thread throughout the song as Payseur describes the joy of life being spread out before you. He takes listeners through the worry-free pleasure of simply taking your partners hand and enjoying the night air. It’s the song’s closing lyric “’cause in the Golden Age we’ll never die” that takes the song (and the band) from just being a carefree tune into an example of youth’s cavalier attitude of supposed immortality. We see the expanse of our life laid out before us and assume we will never get old, let alone die.
Beach Fossils are currently working on their second release and have recently put forth a 7-inch with the singles Face It and Distance. The songs still follow the lo-fi sound with crisp, well-executed guitar picking and cymbal heavy drumming, but the vocals and lyrics are less concealed by fuzzed out reverb. The band is also changing up positions, with bass player John Pena singing lead vocals on Face It. On the ballad-like song, Pena ruminates about the security offered in relationships, “Face it, I turn to you when I can’t face it, us head first into the depths unseen, lets me know that its alright”. The line “us head first into the depths unseen” perfectly describes the fear felt by many as they face the precipice of true adulthood, not really knowing what to expect. The instrumentals on Face It follow the theme of uncertainty by being a bit darker and losing some of the beachy sound seen in Twelve Roses or The Horse. Their 7-inch serves as a promising note for their second album. As our generation starts to shed its’ cloak of adolescence, I’m glad Beach Fossils are around to provide an excellent and truthful soundtrack.
By: Stephanie Glass