Surf Rock

VIDEO PREMIERE: The Velveteins - All Night Baby

Phillipe Roberts

Innocent sock-hop sweetness gets glossed up with tight, punchy production on The Velveteins’ “All Night Baby,” a song that checks all the boxes for a classic '60s romantic desperation anthem. The lyrics are pure teenage yearning and bravado—confident that if only you could get that one chance, you’d sweep the object of your affection into dreamy bliss. Throw in a couple “Ah La La”s (as the gang do pitch-perfectly), make sure those guitars slap back with drippy, surf-rock reverb, nail the call-and-response harmonies, and you’re halfway there. What really separates this one as a leader of the pack in the overflow of old-school aesthetic obsessives is the forward-leaning, energetic punkiness of the execution. The drums lurch into those once-dusty grooves and the rest of the band follows suit, lending “All Night Baby” the same kind of modern spin that makes a track like Pixies’ “Here Comes Your Man” endearing rather than eyeroll-inducing.

A similar refined vintage quality holds true in their video, directed by the band itself. Tessellating stills of the band and friends, drawn over with layers of chalk-like graffiti, The Velveteins update the '60s vibe and present the band as a lovable gang of misfits, parading around town in a series of personality shots. The stereoscopic portraits bop and twist along to the music, coming off like a series of holographic trading cards for the band members (Collect them all!) as the music swells and shuffles around them. It’s a heartwarming peek into the world of the Velveteins, a portrait of a band falling in love with each other, and a perfect match for the gooey love song it accompanies.

PREMIERE: Sheen Marina - Travel Lightly

Laura Kerry

With the name Sheen Marina, this Brooklyn-based four-piece seems to like all things sunny and nautical. Chuck Thomas, Justin Mayfield, Michael Karsh, and Steven Bartashev identify their music most often as “surf-rock,” and they followed up their debut EP Coda Arms last year with a cover of the Beach Boys’ song “Gettin’ Hungry.”

As the line drawing of a web-footed monster on the art for that single suggests, though, they also have a tendency to turn a radiant day at the beach into a twisted, savage rampage. Sand, bright towels, and plastic toys remain in the picture, but they are scattered and partially buried under a thick layer of sludge and debris.

In their full-length debut, Travel Lightly, Sheen Marina jumbles their surf-rock with an eclectic mix of sounds, creating music that is challenging and off-kilter, but always tight and intriguing. Songs tend to morph as they unfold, propelled by the play of tension and release, accessibility and dissonance. Opening on “WYSC,” the album gets through about 11 seconds of rattling percussion and pretty synth before the vocal melody hits its first unexpected note and guitars burst in playing an ominous chord progression. Switching several more times, the song also hits moments of noise rock, art rock, and even a hint of pop punk, all guided by the calculated complexity of math rock. And that’s just the first song.

Throughout Travel Lightly, the band journeys to surreal sunsets (“Chasing the orange cream sunset dreams / She's a firecracker,” they sing in “Nose Ring Boring”); tales of California that are equally head-bobbing and hair-raising (“Fever Dreams”); tunes with jangly verses, shrieking choruses, and a hint of Radiohead in the vocals (“Wax Lens”); and glitchy, jittery guitar-driven collages (“Ugly Viper” and others). Sometimes Sheen Marina paints abstract images, as in “Nose Ring Boring,” while at other times, they tackle the modern world and the psyche with poignancy and directness (“I've got to go to the edge of a digital world where I can find my soul,” they sing in “Swipe”).

One thing remains in all those travels: There's always a weird, ominous creature lurking under the surface. Take “Summer Sunshine People,” the track whose title indicates that it might deliver on the promise in Sheen Marina’s name and genre. Sometimes it does—its vocal and guitar melodies offer enough bounce to grasp onto. But at the end of each catchy line waits a different discordant surprise, and the refrain repeats, “Empty, my life is empty.” The summer sunshine people are surprisingly dark and gloomy, but the song still emits a radiant, magnetic energy. Travel Lightly is a trip to a strange seashore, but we suggest you start packing your beach bag now.

VIDEO PREMIERE: Harmonica Lewinski - Mango Mouth

Kelly Kirwan

I like to picture the collective that is Harmonica Lewinski having a continuous grin, a twitch of the lip that’s a telltale sign of mischievous demeanor. This is a band of props and puns (case in point, their namesake), and of course, a good time. And if you had any doubts, their latest video release, "Mango Mouth," hums with warm-weather, lackadaisical waves, kicking off with a deep, groovy bass line and continuing on with tropical-tinged guitar. It’s a montage of an isolated beach party, with clips of the band alternately lounging and playing for the crowd (while rocking the Hawaiian shirt aesthetic, I must say). The lyrics are delivered in an even drawl, littered with invitations to join in on the fun, like, “Stop standing in your doorway baby … Please whisper what your soul is craving.” And that easy, Dionysian buzz gradually seeps over us as we listen—even the most uptight of crowds would be inclined to partake. 

As the song progresses, the camera switches between a subtle fisheye lens to broader shots of the amusements—splashing in the water, swaying with eyes closed to the sedated grunge Harmonica Lewinski is peddling. Towards the end, sunspots flicker across the screen, later joined by spots that would suggest a reel melting over a flame. Beach dwellers twirl lethargically, shaking their hair to the beat, completely engrossed. It’s addictively easy-going—the sort of song that begets sunny skies and a few (who’s counting?) spirits.


As a corollary to our Best Albums of 2015 list, we wanted to highlight some individual songs and music videos that caught our attention over the course of the year. Some of our absolute favorites already fell into the album roundup, but in order to avoid too much duplication we decided that any given band could only be present on one list.

What you see below are the singles, standout album tracks, videos (some of which honestly could stand as short films), and other sundries that we felt were deserving of your attention. So pop those headphones on and get to it.


Roseau - "Kids and Drunks"

Goth Babe - "Sunshine"

Froyo Ma - "Think @bt"

Budo Kiba - "One For Charlie"

Slow Dakota - "I Saw Christ in Hermès"

Be Quiet - "Ichor"

Bairoa - "Sumersión"

Phèdre - "Tivoli"

Dadras - "Earth Don't Stop Here"

Alabama Shakes - "Future People"

Sebastian Paul - "Riptide"

Gilligan Moss - "It Felt Right"

Totally Mild - "When I'm Tired"

Silicon - "Dope"

Cool Uncle feat. Jessie Ware - "Break Away"

Car Seat Headrest - "Times to Die"

Purity Ring - "Flood On The Floor"

Florence and the Machine - "Various Storms & Saints"

Wild Ones - "Dim the Lights"


Nosaj Thing - "Cold Stares ft. Chance The Rapper + The O'My's"

Unknown Mortal Orchestra - "Necessary Evil"

Buscabulla - "Métele"

Lower Dens - "To Die in L.A."

Kaitlyn Aurelia Smith - "Sundry"

Dralms - "Crushed Pleats"

Dan Deacon - "When I Was Done Dying"

Fur Voice - "Fantasia"

Naytronix - "Back in Time"

The Staves - "Black & White"

Shlohmo - "Buried"

Bagarre - "Claque-le"

Total Makeover - "Self Destructive"

Ducktails - "Surreal Exposure"

REVIEW: Triathalon - Nothing Bothers Me

Raquel Dalarossa

Though it is a coastal town, Savannah, GA, with all its antebellum charm and cobblestoned roads, is certainly not your average breeding ground for surf pop. But in the context of this witchy city, Triathalon’s music makes perfect sense; sun and surf are combined with blues and soul, and a healthy dose of trippy jams round out the sound. The cover art for the Georgian’s sophomore release, Nothing Bothers Me, depicts the record’s contents rather accurately: bright, watery blue is undercut by a shadowy dark, like a close-up of a deep, murky sea.

At first listen, Triathalon’s music sounds like those glistening crests of placid ocean waves, reminiscent of acts like Real Estate or Mac Demarco. Watery guitars shimmer over easy, upbeat melodies in tracks like “Ways” and “Nothing Bothers Me,” but those quickly prove themselves to be more or less outliers. The opening song “Mellow Moves” and the album’s first single “Slip’n” give a better representation of what Triathalon are capable of, with both of them hovering around the seven-minute mark and featuring slow, simmering moments interspersed between twitchy, wobbly jams. “Slip’n” in particular features the kind of sinister touches that gives the band’s music an intriguing edge, like the inhuman, harmonizing vocals in the intro that bring a creepy lullaby to mind, and a darkly-tinged chord progression throughout.

Mid-album highlight “Chill Out” is a strong showing of how well Triathalon balance these tonal elements. A pronounced, ominous bass line is juxtaposed against singer Adam Intrator’s breathy falsetto, while a discordant guitar languidly jangles along. “I’ve been dreaming of you,” sings Intrator, but it’s difficult to discern whether these dreams constitute fantasy or nightmare. And in fact, the entire narrative of the album follows a protagonist who goes from being captivated to practically being held captive. Early on in the track list, we get the lovesick ballad “It’s You,” in which Intrator confesses that “Now it’s getting hard to be alone without my babe / So help me out, I’m dying here, I need your embrace.” By the time we reach “Slip’n,” we hear him practically fleeing from the former object of his affection, desperately singing “She’s in my head, she knows / It’s seeping in, I’m broke.”

Even their instrumental numbers point to a shift in the mood as the record plays. The second track “Fantasy Jam” gives us an inviting guitar riff where notes scale upwards and hit sparkly peaks, where further down the road we get “Step Into the Dark,” with it’s ever so slightly menacing turns in melody.

Happily, the last two songs on the album provide some sleepy respite, with Intrator even singing “Feeling better now / I forgot what I was sad about.” It’s a strange and sudden turn-around, which aids in the album’s overall Twilight Zone-y effect. In an indie landscape that’s rather saturated with surfy sounds, the quietly subversive quality of this record feels clever and well done. All told, Nothing Bothers Me wouldn’t be entirely out of place on a beach trip, but don’t be surprised if a few bad omens turn up along the way.