1000 Palms, the new record from underappreciated rockers Surfer Blood, sees the band adding a surprisingly emotive layer to their typical sound. Although their ability to turn out infectiously rollicking, riff-laden anthems is still on point, there is something else going on here too: something deeply heartfelt, and surprisingly moving.
The band manages to elevate the trials and tribulations of everyday life to a level that becomes almost mystical, with each track powered by a mixture of euphoria and genuine melancholy. Tracks like the stirring Island have a full, almost epic sound, but they never come to feel overly grand or distancing. That song, along with the incredible Feast/Famine and Covered Wagons, are examples of the band’s incredible ability to make the private seem profound.
A track like the gloriously jangly Dorian ranks up with the best work the band has ever done. Over four and a half brief minutes, the group ride highs and traverse lows; instrumental breaks fluctuate between the pained and the life-affirming, meaning that upon each listen the song reveals an additional layer.
But, perhaps most significantly, at no point does the album ever feel excessively considered, or intellectualized. The waltz like sound of Into Catacombs works because it feels so utterly unforced; there is something deeply casual about the track, and in that way it provokes a genuine sense of awe. That a band can craft music this good while making it appear as though it’s the easiest thing in the world to do is a feat indeed.
From the jangly, laidback Other Desert Cities, to the cathartic I Can’t Explain, 1000 Palms is an unremitting pleasure, albeit one that can provoke tears (I cried. Twice, actually: I’m a softie.) This is music that can make you feel good about feeling bad, but it never tips over into melodrama, or ham-fisted heartbreak. 1000 Palms is written in the language of catastrophe, but its sum effect is to make one completely fall back in love with the act of being alive.
Beautiful, tender and yet staunchly not the kind of music that would usually be called beautiful or tender, 1000 Palms is a landmark release, not only in the band’s discography, but in the ever-evolving landscape of contemporary alternative rock. It’s a treasure, through and through.