RIFF SUMMER CHALLENGE

London underground, The Doors and surf

Monochromatic, gloomy beach scene with looming black rocks and smoky blur of water
Image by Nico Grütter from Pixabay

Continuing along the vibe of the surreal and desert-meets-surf, London’s Dead Coast draws from jazz, surf, and blues influences with a psychedelic flourish. After coming together in 2013, Dead Coast soon became involved in the underground London psych scene but somehow end up on surf playlists globally.

Dead Coast draws heavily from surf themes but is far from confined to its sound. For instance, their 2020 single “No Friends” sounds like rocket surfing into a space garage playing Belle and Sebastian.

On their trippier tunes, the guitar is alternately languid and addled but Dead Coast also produces delightfully British-sounding traditional…


RIFF SUMMER CHALLENGE

Surf, gothic, deserts, and Portland

Tall cactuses on slope against star-studded night sky.
Image by RENE RAUSCHENBERGER from Pixabay

Listening to Plastic Cactus, you can imagine roving through the desert under a gloomy eclipse. They are the sound of cactuses on a wobbly slope against the star-studded night sky. They are land-locked surf.

Portland’s up-and-coming foursome uses the full, lush potential of surf instrumentation and vocals on dry turf. Along with Michaela Gradstein on vocals and guitar, Plastic Cactus includes Bill Wilson on bass, Brooke Metropulos on lead and backing vocals, and Tyler Brown on drums.

In the article “The Members of Plastic Cactus Can’t Decide if Their Music Sounds More Like ‘Spongebob Squarepants’ or a Spaghetti Western,” Gradstein…


RIFF SUMMER CHALLENGE

Surf, comics, punk, and writing through pain

Art by Al Feldstein. Cover of “Junior” comic book 1948. Public Domain, Wikimedia Commons

One true joy in digging into the catalogue of current surf sounds is the diversity within each of the bands’ repertoire. Tough Age are no exception.

From one song to the next, their sound is a collage of surf classics with grungy melodies and punk toughness. At the same time, they win the award for the catchiest song: “The Heart of Juliet Jones”.

Signed to Vancouver-based Mint Records (previously producing acts like Neko Case, The Handsome Family, New Pornographers, Lou Barlow) Tough Age has relocated to Toronto. …


RIFF SUMMER CHALLENGE

Cynicism, nostalgia and Carpet Diem

Monochrome surfer on wave
Image by Alex Wigan on Wikimedia Commons, CC.

Is there something disingenuous about all these California surf garage bands? Is nostalgia overplayed?

California has been enjoying a huge revival of surf-influenced garage for the last decade and is likely getting tired of being typecast since the dawn of the Beach Boys. Critics — and disenchanted musicians especially within the So-Cal scene — are pouncing on the homogenizing effect of the hype. And hype can be a buzzkill, indeed. However, it feels strange to criticize a revival in the very area the sound was born.

Perhaps it is as simple as the current acts are metaphorical children of the…


RIFF SUMMER CHALLENGE

Surf and culture of sexual abuse

Woman on rooftop winking and fingering the camera, licking middle finger of other hand
Photo by Nicolas Postiglioni from Pexels

This one will be about a different kind of bird.

Sadly, I had stated falling in love with The Growlers, The Frights and Surf Curse when I discovered they are subject to multiple sexual misconduct allegations made last year involving a toxic patriarchal work culture at Burger Records. These are only three of several more bands that routinely used and abused underage girls. Surf Curse was with Danger Collective, but subject to allegations, playing the same circuits, and were promptly dumped. Burger Records folded shortly after and the reverberation is still unfolding.

So I take a moment I do not…


POETRY

Prose poetry in defence of hope

Auguste Rodin’s La Porte de l’Enfer (left side) by Ad Meskens on Wikimedia Commons

You’ve wrought discharged grief in a soot-soaked landscape, a writhing relief of sinewed limbs gone limp.

You’ve pried the seam to summon a dark already on the lips, breathing us dimensionless into its gate,

but it doesn't prove your severity’s righteousness over your tightened belt —

your overthinking hands that nightmare horror shapes
and soak down winged words in bodies
within arms’ reach, snaked in mud,
they have taken you too. Homogenized bones.

Bones with no souls — no souls holding on at the ribcage for its throb back to hope.

You’ve brought damnation from the dual doors of your…


RIFF SUMMER CHALLENGE

LA girls, doo-wop and dream pop

Image by limitrofe on Pixabay

LA female-led bands like Best Coast and La Luz put the dreamy quality back in surf melodies with smouldering layers of noise, surf guitar and vocal harmonies.

When I started listening to Best Coast a decade ago, I didn't connect their sound to larger sonic surf tides in indie and shoe-gaze but they were on my playlist among the ranks of The Cults, No Joy and Beach House of dream pop milieu. …

Jessica Lee McMillan

MA Eng. Mama, Poet, Iconoclast, Word Nerd. Likes shiny things. Writes on Philosophy, Art, Music, Nature.

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