By Conner Jensen
Coastgaard is a neo-surf rock band that incorporates both modern and vintage ‘60s-inspired rhythms that take the listener to somewhere sunnier and sandier than they are currently. Coastgaard has its origins in the band Sons of Sons, which disbanded because the adapted mood of the songs was too dark for lead vocalist Matt Miller to support. After losing a significant chunk of change from disbanding Sons of Sons with their debut album halfway finished, Miller and drummer Brian Dalessandro began to rise from the ashes, composing songs under no name while trying to redefine their sound. After several months of the duo working hard, they became a quartet of summer groove with the addition of Sean Glassman on guitar, keys, and vocals, with Paolo Codega on bass and vocals. These individuals’ musical styles added to a lot of the predominant melodies you will hear in the group’s newest album Devil on the Balcony.
Our journey begins with “Ruminator,” a song with a very obvious influence from the Beach Boys while maintaining an alternative sound. The song begins with a deep bass line and a fluttering of high notes on the guitar. Miller’s unique voice mixes with the melody to make a laid back, melancholy start to the album. Through the use of tempo variation, the band takes the listener on a roller coaster, speeding up through the verses and dropping the tempo back as the chorus approaches, ensuing a relaxed and uplifted feeling for the reader. “Ruminator” fades out harmoniously, and then an ominous hum opens “Black White Fuzz.” After about a four-count of this ominous hum, the jangly strumming of strings and the upbeat crashing of the drums flood in, and you can’t help but grin. Throughout the song, the low strumming of the bass serves a contrast to both the vocals and the higher-pitched strumming of the guitar. Miller varies the pace and rhythm of his singing from the verse to the chorus, picking up the pace during the chorus to keep up with the instruments intensified playing in a way that beach bums and punks would both want to rock out to. In the refrain, the music slows tremendously to build into the final repetition of the chorus, making a most explosive end to the song.
An ominous hum transitions into the next song, “Old Casino,” much like the previous song. The band takes no moment to set the stage, as a bluesy bass line and sporadic guitar instantly establish a melody. Miller’s singing is more drawn out than it was in the previous songs, which is only fitting for the longing mood in the song and allows him to showcase more of his vocal range. The song progresses as the slow steady beat of the drums and bass coast the listener into memories they too long for. This song closes out with the increased crashing of the cymbals and a brief guitar rift before flowing slowly back into “Dear Nessie.” Quick, jingly strumming of the guitar and tinkering of the piano open up the song, which fades into a groovy, slow-paced jam. This song leans further away from the alternative genre and focuses more on trying to rebirth the surf rock of the ‘60s. The use of castanets and tambourine make for a refreshing addition to the percussion to this slow-paced coastal jam. The chorus allows Miller to show some range, slowing down and hitting higher notes to make for an intoxicating melody. This song closes with a beautiful instrumental that adds to the feel-good groove as it fades into the final verse and then to “A Well Adjusted Man.”
This starts with a punky bass line and some strumming on the electric guitar in a sound very reminiscent of The B-52’s. As the chorus begins, the percussion picks up and the keys join into the surf-punk melody unlike anything you would expect from surf rock. The tone of this song is melancholy, with a darker mood during the verses that gets lifted up slightly during the chorus. Using an instrumental outro, the song fades from the melodic calamity into just humming to transition into “Fur.” “Fur” combines a country-esque bass line with the higher-pitched, lighthearted strumming of the electric guitar. This song, from the moment it begins, has the listener in a feel-good mindset as the lyrics construct images of passion between two individuals. As the chorus comes in there is a shift in the song as the tempo picks up for the percussion and the bass fades and reverberates, giving the electric guitar a chance to shine a little more. The song only gets more interesting from there, fading into an instrumental using flute and guitar interchangeably until the rest of the instruments flood back in. This unique instrumental interlude shifts the song back into its original slow groove for the song to end on.
“Genevieve” opens with the piano and the guitar, both playing a melodious, high energy tune that is rudely interrupted by the crashing of cymbals and the cry of a bass rift. This establishes a longing but accepting tone that is reinforced throughout the lyrics in the song. Unlike the other songs so far, this song is a duet, including a verse from a woman who the singer addresses as Genevieve. The song is also riddled with beautiful instrumentation of tinkering piano keys and a calm shaking of the tambourine. All these elements come together to create arguably one of the best songs on this album. Humming closes this song, as well as opens “Landmines.” The humming, however, is quickly accompanied by fast-paced strumming on the electric guitar and then a glissando into the melody of the song, which has more obvious Beach Boys influences. This groovy song utilizes synthesizer more predominantly, which prior has been an overlooked touch to the song, and the usual slew of instruments are present as well. However, the synthesizer adds a new flair to the surfer sound that they group masterfully encompassed in this song.
If the next song sounds a little familiar, it’s because it is. “Ruminator Reprise” begins almost instantly with the fast-paced drumming of a snare and the melody from “Ruminator.” This song is filled with instrumentals, as is often customary with reprises. This song is a refresher of the alternative punk flair that can seem to dwindle from song to song, as well as providing contrast to the next song, “Something Misty.” This song starts with three slow strums on the guitar then a melody of electric guitar, bass and percussion to create a slow-paced coastal sound. Listeners are bound to drift away into the mild-paced groove of this song and go somewhere with coladas and co-ed companions. The percussion has the most variation of tempo throughout the song, but it’s only to build anticipation for the surprisingly mild-mannered chorus. This technique is as enticing as it is relaxing, as you begin to become less tense when the chorus is just as soothing as the verses were. The last thing we hear is the synthesizer fading out as the penultimate song begins.
“Killer Swan” begins with an impressive rock n’ roll guitar rift that will have you confused as to if “it’s so metal” or “so wavy, bro”. This blend of the two genres continues to be present throughout the first verse, with the sound during the verse being more surf-rock dominant and the chorus adapting the more alternative, ‘90s inspired sound. “Killer Swan” is a beautiful blend of these two influences along with the bands own unique flair and style to make for an auditory journey. The album finishes with “College Song,” a very lighthearted and mildly-paced song, which consists primarily of the strumming of guitar and the talented singing of Matt Miller. This song provides for a nostalgic yet longing finish that brings this entire album full circle in to a masterful close.
Devil on the Balcony was released today on eOne Music. Additionally, the group just had their album release show and have some shows scheduled at SXSW this March. This album tackles the surf-rock genre like no other, stretching the limits of the genre while incorporating their own flair and influences. Listeners young and old will find at least one song they love, whether it reminds you of the good old days or takes you to a coast of your own. No matter who you are, this album is bound to have you feeling a little sunnier; so up the volume a little, relax and enjoy.