REVIEW: Beach Fossils – "What A Pleasure" EP

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Beach Fossils – "What A Pleasure" EP
Release Date: March 8th, 2011
Label: Captured Tracks

In the digital age there are more and more good to great albums finding time in the ear space of listeners every year.  It makes sense because simply put, there are more records released and the major labels/radio stations are no longer the only sources of discovery for music fans.  While this barrage of new albums, one after another, ultimately helps smaller bands find an audience, there are major drawbacks.  The biggest problem that comes to mind is how quickly albums are judged, consumed, and forgotten in a matter of months.  Even the two biggest buzz records in recent memory, Animal Collective’s “Merriweather Post Pavilion” and Beach House’s “Teen Dream” shot out of the buzz canon quickly, only to be afterthoughts halfway through the year, and ultimately praised for a short time on year end lists.  Since we can download an album weeks before its release, it’s a regular occurrence to consume and discard a good record before the scheduled release date.  It’s nobody’s fault, the faucet is always on and great music is always coming out.  To keep up this discarding is essential to staying “in the know”.  

What becomes rare is an album that transcends the “now” and within those weeks of sampling, cements itself as a record that can exist in any moment.  Some of my favorite records of the last few years don’t even accomplish this feat.  They were great for that specific time but have lost some of their luster in the maturing process and it was obvious from the first listen that this was their fate.  When hearing a new record, very few sound both familiar and new and exist in modern society without any pretense of what is cool at that specific time.  This brings us to the first release of 2011 that answers the task of existing not in this specific moment or trend, but as something that will be special forever.  The album is What A Pleasure, the new EP from New York’s Beach Fossils. 

The most impressive accomplishment regarding What A Pleasure is the ease in which each of the tracks work, one after another, toward the greater goal of shaping an album and not to impress as individual songs.  It’s a group of musically simplistic tracks that work as a whole to create a consistent mood rather than a spattering of hits/singles surrounded by filler.  From the start, a twinkling guitar radiates and never stops until the robust twenty-three minutes have passed.  It’s this one guitar tone that drives each song and acts as a bridge from track to track. What A Pleasure feels like being on the end of a kite; controlled drifting.  The songs allow the listener to float around with the melodies and vocals, but it’s obvious that while you can take the music wherever you want, Beach Fossils are the ones masterfully controlling the experience.

With their self-titled release in 2010, Beach Fossils were slapped with the tag of being a lo-fi band.  I can see why this was the immediate label, as the debut LP featured shakier (lower quality) production and gobs of reverb on the vocals.  The reverb still exists on What A Pleasure but it’s surrounded by a cleaner production.  What’s shocking is how music critics are becoming dependent on genre labeling to classify how they feel about a band/release.  When I hear What A Pleasure it sounds like a softer version of rock and I find no need to label it under a made up genre to feel more comfortable defining/critiquing the presented sound.   It’s actually refreshing to hear a newcomer in the “indie” scene move away from genre specific music and just make music that sounds like a softer version of rock.  There are no flashy objects to distract the listener; this is a straightforward presentation of eight solid tracks and unlike other records the sounds can stand alone.  Putting out a record in this current climate that can’t fit into a nice little offshoot category is much more bold and ultimately interesting than abstraction or experimentation that fits a trendy genre.

Every review I’ve read about What A Pleasure has gone out of its way to talk about nostalgia.  I’m not sure what they think this music is nostalgic toward, they never define it, but for me it’s nostalgic to a time when music could just be music.  The time when a guitar could be a guitar, a bass a bass, a drum and drum, and a band a band, not a publicity whore, genre hop on, or “meme” trying to garner or capitalize on buzz.  With this EP, the brilliant music is much more important than any label music blogs could bestow on them.  The album isn’t even out and we’re already consuming and gearing up to throw What A Pleasure aside for the next “must hear record”.  I’ve spent a lot of time with this record and I’m not ready to move on…or sure I’ll ever be ready.  This is one of those special releases that will fondly sit on my vinyl shelf next to other timeless masterpieces.  As time goes on, the frequency that it’s pulled off the shelf might diminish, but I can promise it will never disappear.  What A Pleasure might exist in a time where records come and go quickly, but the music transcends our ADD culture and should act as a reminder to both bands and listeners what music can and should be: a backdrop to attach new memories, not a soundtrack to the sections of our lives already experienced.  I’ve wondered of late if a record can still be special just because it is and for no other outside reason.  Beach Fossils answered with their new EP, What A Pleasure.  The answer is yes.


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