Foliage - "Dare"
(2017 Spirit Goth)
If it weren't for their Bandcamp bio, it'd be easy to assume that Foliage frontman Manuel Joseph Walker lived somewhere in London or Manchester, circa 1980. Spiking Another Sunny Day's jangle-pop gloom with the tense punk shuffle of The Clash's "Lost in the Supermarket", the San Bernadino-based solo act's latest single, "Dare" synthesizes the best sounds to emerge from Britain during the decade-long Thatcher-era. Walker has stripped away much of the reverb that saturated his 2015 debut record, Truths, filling in the empty space with distressed kick drums and meatier bass. Backed by melodica and an uncredited vocalist, he feels as indebted to My So Called Life's soundtrack as he does to Wild Nothing -- there's something vaguely folky that possesses the sustained "oooohs" snaking through the new track, adding flesh to the more skeletal compositions of their earlier work.
Beach Fossils - Somersault
The discography of Brooklyn's Beach Fossils (who, until recently, I assumed had disbanded) has taken a similar turn for the tidier. Their fourth LP, Somersault, is the band's first release in as many years, representing an exodus from their former cakes of movie-theater buttered beach pop. It's lighter fare, consisting of their usual layered, staccato riffs -- only here, they're lightly salted with hints of smooth jazz and 70s soft rock, intensifying their flavor instead of drowning it. Somersault is a tasteful outing, proving that for better or for worse, Beach Fossils have aged alongside the fans who've closely followed their 8-year adolescence.
"Tangerine" is an early sign of evolution. Featuring a wispy verse sung by Slowdive's Rachel Goswell, the band's guitars take an unexpected backseat to Jack Doyle Smith's loping basslines and the occasional splatter of strings. Where Beach Fossils once resembled the early hardcore hustle of Descendents -- their walls of trebly fuzz shoved along by blast-beats -- they could now be mistaken for the Byrds, glistening with Paisley-patterned psychedelia. "Closer Everywhere" nearly eschews six-stringed instruments altogether, opting instead for harpsichord and melty threads of baroque orchestration. As much as I'm loath to make a comparison to The Beatles, I'd be lying if I said the track doesn't evoke the backmasked intro to "I Am the Walrus", tightly winding screwball harmonies about a barely-there rhythm section.
"Rise" guides Somersault into totally unfamiliar territory, cloaking a spoken word verse by cloud-rapper Cities Aviv in washes of Rhodes piano and saxophone. Out of context it sounds like a jarring sonic swerve, yet sandwiched between the Real Estate riffage of "May 1st" and "Sugar", a downtempo shoegaze tune, it makes for a seamless transition that's one of the record's most replayable moments.
Despite a couple tracks that fall short of Beach Fossils' usual standard, like the anemic "Down the Line" (which is redeemed by the verse "I really hate your poetry", delivered with frontman Payseur's uniformly breezy disinterest), the band has returned with a record original enough to shake off their countless Bandcamp imitators while staying true to their effortless pop ethos. The aptly-titled "That's All for Now" caps things off with Somersault's best offering. It's a compositional nod to the trio's self-titled debut, polishing its daydreamed vocals and sun-bleached melodies. A few concluding licks of country-crossover slide guitar hold the door for listeners, as if to promise more surprise experimentation in the future.
For a band that's been silent for four years, Beach Fossils sound fresher than ever.