A sonic somersault

Beach Fossils. Photo: SUPPLIED

Beach Fossils’ third studio effort finds Dustin Payseur and co giving their jangly indie sound an opulent sheen.

Beach Fossils/ Somersault

Brooklyn’s Beach Fossils belong to the cluster of fresh-faced indie outfits who were creating a bit of a buzz back in the late noughties. Along with Wild Nothing, Real Estate, Mac DeMarco and DIIV, the band, led by founding member Dustin Payseur, traffic in nostalgia-inducing lo-fi dream-pop doused in hazy reverb. This musical palette has become synonymous with Beach Fossils’ releases throughout the years — from a handful of singles and their 2010’s self-titled debut to the What A Pleasure EP and 2013’s sophomore record Clash The Truth.

Now, after a four-year absence, Payseur returns with the band’s third studio outing Somersault. Released on his own label Bayonet Records, it reintroduces Beach Fossils as a trio made up of two other musicians Jack Doyle Smith and Tommy Davidson. But that’s not the only update here — the group also expands their sound, offering up a richer, more layered instrumentation that defies the DIY aesthetic they were initially known for.

Case in point is the opener-slash-lead single This Year. Set to breezy guitars, it first recalls the wistful vibe of Real Estate, but then grows into something elegant as the strings drift in just before the second verse. “This year I told myself it’d be a better one/ Try not to fall back onto the knife/ By now I told myself I’d be a better friend/ I’ll meet you on the other side of life,” Payseur sings of self-improvement, his voice as weary as it’s ever been.

More string arrangements and orchestral flourishes appear on Tangerine (featuring guest vocals from Slowdive’s Rachel Goswell) and Saint Ivy. The latter stands out on the strength of billowy flute followed by a glorious dynamic shift, turning it into the sort of earnest folk-rock à la Chicago duo Whitney. Featuring spoken word by guest rapper Cities Aviv (Gavin Mays), the misty, saxophone-driven Rise is a welcome outlier. Closer Everywhere sparkles with harpsichord while Social Jetlag grooves along its shimmering piano and trip-hop beats.

Down The Line follows with a New Order-esque bassline as Payseur addresses heavier issues like depression, self-doubt and creative block (“So call me up tonight/ If you need somewhere to get out of the line/ These days I feel like I do nothing right/ So come with me and we’ll go down the line”). That’s All for Now finishes things off with wistful guitars and a waft of country music that occupies its last moments.

Overall, Somersault strikes a wholesome balance between Beach Fossils’ brand of melancholy indie-pop and their foray into different music genres. By incorporating a range of new, at times unexpected, instruments into their production, they have delivered a multifaceted record that feels at once familiar and refreshingly new. This is by far the band’s most refined and inspired output, one that should appeal to their fans and gain them some new ones.

THE PLAYLIST

Greasy Cafe/ Pa Tid Pa Tor

Thai indie-folk luminary Apichai “Lek” Trakulpadejkrai returns with Pa Tid Pa Tor [Disjointed], the first taste of his forthcoming studio effort Technicolor under Greasy Cafee. The song has that alt-J vibe going on, with eerie vocalising and sparse production. As with his previous releases, Lek’s everyman vocals take centre stage, making you feel as if you were sitting by a campfire listening to the man.

Foo Fighters/ Run

Once you’ve gone punk, you never go back. Well, actually, you can, but bear with us for a minute here. The Foo Fighters’ latest cut, Run, finds former Nirvana member Dave Grohl and his gang traversing punk territory by employing the genre’s iconic soft-loud-soft dynamic. The five-and-a-half-minute track starts off slow with nothing but soft guitars and Grohl’s vocals. Then the drums creep in, catapulting the whole thing into hard-rock high heaven. In full-fledged screamo mode, Grohl growls: “Before the time runs out/ There’s somewhere to run/ Wake up/ Run for your life with me.” There’s no word yet as to whether this will appear on the band’s ninth LP, but, damn, it’s oh so gratifying.

Lorde/ Perfect Places

Perfect Places, the latest single from Lorde’s upcoming sophomore album Melodrama, is like a song version of one of those “When you’re out partying and suddenly realise … ” memes. Here, the New Zealand songstress goes on a bender in a bid to search for a haven from the outside world (“All the nights spent off our faces/ Trying to find these perfect places”). Only later does she realise that perfect places are an elusive notion.

Arcade Fire/ Everything Now

The Canadian indie-rock stalwarts have returned with Everything Now, title track from their forthcoming fifth album. Co-produced by Daft Punk’s Thomas Bangalter and Pulp’s Steve Mackey, the song features the exuberant piano melody and disco lilt that recall Abba’s Dancing Queen (so much so that while listening to it, we can’t help but humming, “Watch that scene/ Diggin’ the dancing queen” along). As far as the lyrics go, they take a jab at humdrum homogeneity and soul-numbing capitalism: “And every boy uses the same line/ I pledge allegiance to everything now/ Every song that I’ve ever heard/ Is playing at the same time, it’s absurd/ And it reminds me, we’ve got everything now.”

Benjamin Clementine/ Phantom Of Aleppoville

Fresh off of collaborating with Gorillaz on their latest album, Humanz, Mercury Prize winner Benjamin Clementine returns with his first new solo material since his 2015 debut LP At Least For Now. Phantom of Aleppoville finds the British pianist and singer-songwriter drawing inspiration from the work of renowned paediatrician and psychoanalyst Donald Winnicott that deals with bullied children. “O Billy the bully/ Come on out of your hideout/ Billy the bully, it’s all right, you’ve been forgiven,” Clementine intones in his trademark opulent tenor, which sort of makes up for the rather inane line that follows (“For me the difference between love and hate/ Weighs the same difference between risotto and rice pudding”).