The last time we heard from the Laura Daegling-led project Surfer Rosie, they’d just released “Worms“, an explosive whirlwind of frustration and engaging dynamics. Daegling had already more than proven to be a songwriter of worth via Sun’s Out Bummed Out, whose “Cut All My Hair” ranks as one of the finest songs of the past few years. Surfer Rosie provided an opportunity to showcase a much spikier side of Daegling’s arsenal and the hints the band’s been providing leading up to their first proper release — via the increasingly excellent Good Cheer Records label — have all honestly conveyed one simple truth: this EP’s a monster.
Each of the record’s four tracks comes brimming with the same kind of hard-won anxiety and relentlessness that informed “Worms”. “Nerves“, the EP’s opening track, has already been unveiled and sets the tone for a tense and embattled run of songs that don’t shy away from showing a spirited resilience, even as defeatism seeps through the cracks. From that opener onward, EP 1 often sounds like the band’s alternating between a chaotic, mid-sprint catharsis and the gasp-of-breath relief that accompanies the exit and provides a window back to a more stately composure.
“Gilly’s Dream” provides the latter of those two modes throughout and manages to stand out in a short collection full of uniformly strong efforts. By far the calmest track the EP has to offer, “Gilly’s Dream” conjures up a dream-like haze that’s hard to unravel and even harder to want to escape. Subdued, understated, and exuding a near-paradoxic confidence, the song’s an unlikely — and deeply unassuming — spellbinder. It’s also a near-necessity on an EP that has a penchant to wrings emotional responses out of its listeners at intense and unapologetic volumes.
The back half of EP 1 continues to offer up gems, with “Resting Place” and “Chugger” both easily defensible candidates for Surfer Rosie’s best song to date. Whether it’s the gorgeous 80-second intro to the closing track or the hushed extended outro section of “Resting Place”, the band continues to prove their mastery of dynamic composition. At their most muted, the songs find a deep well of strength that manages to make both the narratives and the compositions stick.
Occasionally, when the EPs at its most absorbing, it can feel like being flattened. Instead of terror, though, the feeling that it provokes is reassurance. It’s that same quiet redemption that defines EP 1 and makes Surfer Rosie a band deserving of a great amount of care. In a seemingly unending barrage of detachment that’s taken over various subgenres of punk, it’s refreshing to have a testament to sincerity and openness. At the end of the day, both EP 1 and Surfer Rosie feel like a ceaseless, unpredictable fire that better an exceedingly cold room. We should all consider ourselves lucky to have the opportunity to stare at the constantly shifting embers and be affected by the glow.