Album Mini-review: Coastgaard — Devil on the Balcony

(coastgaard_devil_on_the_balThe following was originally published by the San Diego Reader.)

Though Coastgaard build their music on a foundation of surf rock, their approach is quite some distance from that of surf revivalists like Los Straitjackets. There’s an upbeat, playful aesthetic at work on the group’s second album, Devil on the Balcony, one that places them closer to groups like Sloan or Fountains of Wayne. A unified sonic approach is the glue that holds together the dozen tunes on Devil on the Balcony: reverbed guitars, fuzz bass lines, straight-ahead drums and no-nonsense washes of keyboard all serve to support Matt Miller‘s lead vocals.

A sense of history pervades the album: the sweet melody of “Dear Nessie” recalls Elvis Costello‘s early 1980s work. “A Well Adjusted Man” and “Landmines” are the disc’s most overtly surf-rock flavored tune – and they’re also among the best here – but Coastgaard’s compositional skills extend well beyond the genre. One has to wait until nearly halfway through Devil on the Balcony for a guitar solo (“Fur”), and that’s followed by some very evocative Mellotron, then some musical dialogue between wah-wah guitar and piano; this is a disc that rewards the listener who allows the full extent of the album’s charms to reveal itself.