Brooklyn-based duo Surf Rock is Dead (SRiD) has been noodling out riffs and formulating a nostalgic hybrid of post-punk and dream-pop since 2015. Five years later, their debut LP, Existential Playboy is a self-reflective time capsule of the good times and the bad, and all the lessons they learned along the way. It begs to be blasted out of an old boom box at the beach, or out of your mom’s station wagon’s speakers with the windows down.
The LP opens with “Our Time,” an artist’s realization that those around them might not understand their desire to create. “Eventually the night becomes your friend and a place of creative solitude,” says SRiD’s Joel Witenberg. Some casual guitar noodling morphed into the verses, which are a crystal clear ode the night, a time where the uncertainty of pursuing your passions becomes shrouded.
It’s not all dark and serious on Existential Playboy, as “Away Message” takes a turn for the tongue-in-cheek. It’s packed with nostalgia, with echoing vocals and summery guitar melodies that transport the listener to a simpler time. Life is good when the most anxiety inducing thing you can do is message your crushes on aol instant messenger. Surf Rock is Dead captures the frenetic energy of young love, second guessing each typed out message, and nervously sweating as you muster up the courage to hit send.
“Diabolik” is a psych-rock record of several negative roommate situations the duo has encountered living in NYC. From finding mysterious substances on the floor to stumbling upon strangers in your room, the band makes it painfully clear that NYC is nowhere near as glamorous as it looks in the movies (but it does make great for fun stories to tell after the fact).
In Witenberg’s Bed-Stuy apartment, Surf Rock is Dead took a new approach to songwriting and ended up with most of the vocals to “Immaculate,” their first slow song. It’s mellow, dreamy, and entirely narrative. According to SRiD’s Kevin Pariso, the story is something like: “The world as we know it is coming to the end. You’re with your partner having you last dialogue ever, trying to figure out what the fuck happened and how things could have been different. Everything will be gone soon but those last moments in the present still remain somehow immaculate and pure.”
Existential Playboy oscillates between experimental tracks and SRiD classics, like the shoegaze/post-rock “Solid Ties,” which has been a long-time staple in their live set. “Typical Cliché is a slightly jazzed-up rendition of their sound, a sly song about shying away from commitment and instead choosing to “sow your wild oats.”
“Miss You,” brings a taste of punk to the album, with lyrics written to memorialize a friend who passed and loved the song when the band was unsure about it. “Another World,” takes an eerie turn, but continues to answer the existential question posed in “Miss You”: what happens when we die?
If you’re getting over your first heartbreak, “Watching the Dead” is for you. The rhapsodic track echoes sentimentality and the struggle of letting go. It’s the album’s last dose of shoegaze rock before “always learning what not to do,” delivers it’s gentle, acoustic conclusion. Nobody gets everything right the first time around, but in all our mistakes, hardships, and mountains to climb, Surf Rock is Dead reminds us of the lessons we gather from them, and the beautiful view at the summit.