Black Surf gained a shower of praise for their 2016 experimental pop-rock album ‘Let’s Pretend It’s Summer’. ‘Make Friends’ is the first of this material since, but if you’re expecting the noisy guitar of their debut, it’s all but absent here. Instead, they are trying on a softer sound and it fits very well.
With its experimental take on pop-punk, their debut drew strong comparisons to Weezer. The influence hasn’t entirely gone and an infectious vein runs throughout the EP. However, they also acknowledge the importance of The Lemonheads in shaping this four-song set. You can hear that too, but the sound is their own.
Notably, each song is distinct but sits comfortably with the others. ‘Into the Night’ works as an opening, using softly strummed fuzzy guitars to lull you in. Yet, it’s the song’s emotional vocal core that really grasps you. It’s a contrast to the pleasant slice of indie-pop on ‘Open Fire’ which shows glimpses of the band’s rougher edge but is a clear progression. As the band continues to the brighter tone of ‘Eleven Dando (Good Time)’, an atmospheric and breathy vocal performance from Ali Epstone pushes the song forward while drawing it closer to the others. It’s skilfully done.
Producers Lee Smith and Jamie Lockhart have curtailed the band’s slightly harsh sound. Instead, they round the edges and push little details. This is clearly heard on ‘Major Regiment’, which is a solid departure for the band. It’s a caustic piece, full of stuttering, distant guitars and intense backwards-sounding cymbal crashes. You can almost feel the battle with depression Epstone is singing about.
Black Surf are really onto something with ‘Make Friends’. It is a confident statement and an affecting piece of work. As such a rounded journey it seems a shame it’s only four songs long. A second EP from the same sessions will follow later this year and based on this, it will be worth looking forward to.
‘Make Friends’ EP by Black Surf is released on 15th May.
Words by Ian Kenworthy (@WhisperingSand)