Essential New Music: Surfer Blood’s “Snowdonia”

A darkness pervades John Paul Pitts’ lyrics on Snowdonia, the first Surfer Blood album since the death, by cancer, of guitarist Thomas Fekete, but the overall tenor is joyful. It’s a rebooted version of the band, with Pitts and original drummer Tyler Schwarz joined by guitarist Michael McCleary and bassist Lindsey Mills—the latter two the source of the breezy harmony vocals that sweetened the arrangements. This is a zippy power-pop record, full of crunchy riffs and ringing leads, even as Pitts sings of mortality, aging and sacrifice. Pitts stretches out with multipart song structure on the title track and shifts “Instant Doppelgangers” into high gear with some judiciously placed distortion that hearkens back to 2010’s Astro Coast. But most of Snowdonia is immediate and direct, as bright and sharply defined as the weather in the band’s native Florida. At times reminiscent of the Lilys’ Better Can’t Make Your Life Better, Snowdonia works within formulas, but it does so with aplomb.

—Steve Klinge