There are times when it is easy to get lost in a realm of fantasy, moments in life and indeed music when physically and mentally you can escape the hum drum and explore new landscapes. One such escape is the sultry adventure of Jekyll Island, the new and third album from New Zealand psychgazers Surf City. Basking in a sultry surf rock seeded climate wrapped in the summery smile of shoegaze and the sonic beauty of psyche rock, the release is a mesmeric lure for ears and imagination.
The successor to their acclaimed album We Knew It Was Not Going To Be Like This of 2013, Jekyll Island is a fascinating flight of sound and emotion. Songs again come soaked in the warm magnetic fuzziness which the band is becoming renowned for but equally feel more precisely sculpted and resourcefully rounded propositions. It is open growth and evolution in the Surf City songwriting but an emerging potency which defuses none of the band’s already rich and tantalising qualities; basically a maturity of existing prowess exploring fresh and vivaciously new adventure. Simply songs and album offer pure pop presented in summery embraces of charm and beauty.
The album is also an imposing grower on ears and passions, its early touches engaging and magnetic but continual exposure leads to anything from lustful rapture to lingering seduction. The first track though is an immediate enslavement of ears and emotions on its first ever touch. From its opening exotic web of percussive and sonic enticement, Beat The Summer Heat has imagination and appetite hooked; especially as from that opening shuffle a rhythmic contagion unleashes irresistible bait. Jabbing with their own individual swing, beats forge an addictive lure at the heart of the track, taking ears and pleasure by the hand as guitars swarm over their enticement with vivid colours and a lively shimmer. Vocally too Davin Stoddard is a beacon of warmth and magnetism, riding the contagion with radiance. The track is glorious, almost alone worth the cost of your ticket for the album’s compelling ride.
There is no major drift in quality and temptation as the following Spec City takes over, it a song with a bubbling electro underbelly and a radiating surface of melodic and harmonic splendour. The song is a courtship of the senses, a My Bloody Valentine like caress making an unrelenting seduction as a Yo La Tengo like vibrancy brings livelier action to the romance. It is a tempting swiftly backed and taken into new explorations by Jekyll Island and the Psycosphere and in turn Hollow Veins. The first of the two is a fascinating mix of eighties new wave bred pop and nineties inspired psychedelic enterprise, but also littered with post punk hooks and a Happy Monday’s like devilry. The song is pure mesmerism and perfectly contrasted and complimented in tone by the darker rockier revelry of its successor. It romps through ears like a meeting of The Horrors and House Of Love engaged in a vintage surf rock revival, its touch and breath raw yet overwhelmingly seductive.
The guitars of Stoddard and Jamie Kennedy weave an infectious web of fuzz induced rock pop next in One Too Many Things, its twang offering a country whisper whilst its catchy tenacity has a Brit pop lilt to its tempting, whilst its successor What They Need expands the already potent variety within the album again. It opens with a droning tang of a sound you might expect from the band’s part of the world, a scuzz lined whiny lure which persists invitingly around the additional minimalistic yet weighty hug of sound filling its persuasion.
That constant tweaking of flavours has Leave Your Worries unveiling an anthemic infectiousness which plays like a the offspring of a union between The Mighty Lemon Drop, The Lightning Seeds, and Kitchens of Distinction, but as in all songs it emerges as unique to Surf City.
The delicious heavy bass seducing and just as enticing beats offered by Mike Ellis and Andy Frost at its start makes Indian Summer straight after, irresistible all on their own but infused with the melodic lustre of the guitars and the resonating touch of Stoddard’s vocals, it only proceeds to steal attention and the passions further. It is a charmer from start to finish, one carrying the right amount of mischief and excitement but an incitement which ultimately places the listener in a fulfilling and richly satisfying calm. That is a description suiting the whole of Jekyll Island to be honest, and especially the gorgeous pop of Thumbs Up which romps with ears and emotions next. Whether it is possible to ever write the perfect song is debateable but it is possible to come close and this is certainly a serious contender. Melodies reek of innocence yet are inflammatory on the ear whilst harmonies and rhythms simply engage in lustful and infection breeding temptation.
The album is brought to a just as thrilling end by firstly the more sober, in comparison to its predecessor, but raucously energetic dance of The End and lastly through the meditative glamour and brilliance of Jesus Elvis Coca Cola. Sixties kissed and soaked in aural sunshine, the track is a majestic sea of expressive harmonies and poetic melodies soaked in a wash of psychedelic humidity.
It is a transfixing end to an increasingly mouth-watering encounter. There is a great familiarity to Jekyll Island but only as a rich spice in the unique ambience and masterful imagination of Surf City. Psyche/shoegaze pop has rarely sounded better.
Jekyll Island is available via Fire Records now and digitally, on CD, and on black vinyl @ https://surfcitymusic.bandcamp.com/track/hollow-veins
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