The eleven tracks that make up Somersault, the third full-length album by Brooklyn trio Beach Fossils, is a near-50/50 split of guitar-based indie pop, and psychedelic, jazz-infused dreaminess. Imagine if Sarah Records luminaries The Field Mice decided to subtly incorporate “Strawberry Fields Forever” weirdness, or if Teenbeat Records stalwarts True Love Always dropped an occasional saxophone or flute solo into the mix. That should give you a good idea of where Beach Fossils are coming from.
Somersault opens with the first single, “This Year”, an upbeat song that has the band merrily delivering a lightly jangly, effervescent performance with each chorus punctuated by a lovely string arrangement. While it’s a brilliant start, it also sets expectations high for the rest of the record. Slowdive’s Rachel Goswell provides a somewhat out-of-character and easily ignored vocal cameo on “Tangerine”. Had Goswell’s name not been included next to the song’s title, it’s hard to imagine listeners recognizing her appearance on the track at all. The first quarter of the record is concluded with the downtempo “Saint Ivy”. The song has a pleasantly woozy, psych-pop feel, but it’s made awkward by the inclusion of a jazzy flute that sounds entirely out of place.
The album’s second quarter’s lone standout, “May 1st”, does a decent enough job of recapturing at least some of the magic “This Year” delivered initially. However, any hope of Beach Fossils reprising the glory displayed at Somersault’s outset is quickly washed away by the abysmal “Rise (ft. Cities Aviv)”. While fortunately kept to under two minutes, the slowed-down piece, which utilizes a saxophone and electric piano combination under Aviv’s rambling, inane monologue, is an exercise in listener patience. “Does that make sense to you?” Cities Aviv says at one point in his screed. No, it doesn’t. The back-to-back-to-back similarly lackadaisical, sluggish feel of the songs “Sugar”, “Closer Everywhere”, and “Social Jetlag” drag the album into nearly ten minutes of listener ennui and indifference. Why these three tracks are sequenced at Somersault’s crucial middle section this way is anyone’s guess.
Somersault’s final three songs find at least some redemption among this trying collection. Both “Down the Line” and “That’s All for Now”, the record’s parting shot, are quite good. While some subtle studio effects are used, both songs have the trio performing without the guest appearances and unnecessary, ancillary instrumentation that ended up obscuring so much of the core three members’ strengths. Unfortunately, the majority of Somersault is an overproduced mess. Beach Fossils would have been better served relying on their own talents rather than the glut of excessive, unnecessary added instrumentation and poorly paired cameos that cloud over this collection of mostly decent songs by an obviously competent indie pop band.