Gremmy Awards 2023: Best Modern Surf Record

Best Modern Surf Record

It's great to make music that sounds like the 60's, but sometimes you just want to make the surf music you want to make. Or maybe you want to push the genre beyond where it's been. There were a lot of great options here this year, and while I don't think my selections paint the full picture, these are the records that I felt were the best from start to finish.

Honorable Mentions

Halibears - Helsinki Twister

We surf fans tend to be a very guitar oriented people, so it's a little eyebrow-raising seeing a band like Halibears where the lead songwriter is on drums and each track features one guitar... split between three people. Helsinki Twister is a understated record that doesn't aim to sound like more than it is, doesn't push boundaries, but delights with what it has to offer. These are simple songs that occasionally scoot along with groovy rhythms and jazzy moments, and feature way too much keyboard for me to call this trad surf. It's not a wower, but it's a smiler the whole way through.

Supertubos - The Fourth Drive

Adventurous is the word. The Fourth Drive feels free-thinking and inventive without pretention, inviting you to jump in and enjoy a wild ride. Most of these songs sound very distinct from one another, with unexpected rhythms and tones that all come together beautifully. And listen to that bass, perhaps higher in the mix than usual but earning it, particularly on their extremely provocative version of "Experiment in Terror". Smart, forward-thinking stuff that stays light enough to fly.

William J. Le Petomane - Cocktails for One

At this point an instrumental WJLP record feels like it's automatically finding its way here. You can pretty much guarantee that you'll have tight, bright-and-friendly songs that have simple melodies but intricate arrangements. And if that all feels too safe, you've always got tracks with a little bit of fuzz-pedal teeth or exotic/flamenco/spanish elements to throw you off-balance. WJLP always knows how to push a song just a little bit to make it go past good and into special. Somebody find him a backing band and bring him out to some festivals.

The Desolate Coast - Without a Planet

Ask a make-up wearing outcast, goth music is not about the makeup. The Desolate Coast are not a gimmick, in fact they strike me as about as earnest as it gets, and I'm not sure how they would feel about my calling them goth surf, but I mean it in the sense that they evoke the melancholy sound of the 80's underground. And yet they're also very much a surf band, and have a long-running history in the northwestern surf scene. They're a sound unto themselves, and it's a special sound, able to get a nibble from your heart with just a note, but reeling it in with their melodies. Without a Planet is a big record with seventeen tracks that each feel like they've got something bold to say, and you won't find another record like it.

Mark Malibu & The Wasagas - Haunted Hotrod Beach Party

There have been several Gremmy mentions going to compilations of works released in the past few years, and it admittedly makes me feel a little uneasy about whether they're eligible. But how can I keep this one off? Not only do I think this is the best album they've released, but The Wasagas strung it all together with snippets of a goofy (but well-produced!) old-time radio play. Their past three EPs have all been song-for-song solid gold -- one with a drag-race theme, one with a loose mod dance-party theme, and one spooky one -- but they even pad it out with six tracks that are either new or singles pulled from other compilations. Admittedly, those radio plays get the skip button when the record is on shuffle, but what a way to make a record of scraps feel more cohesive than most records conceived as a full-length!

And the Gremmy goes to....

The Bomboras - Songs from Beyond!

Sometimes things live up to the hype. It was made pretty clear that The Bomboras still had it when they released their 2021 EP, and sure enough their first LP in 25 years is not only up to snuff, but likely their best. Songs from Beyond is a door-kicker of a record. It's boisterous, anthemic, confident, and not willing to wait up. But it also has things to show you, wonders to impart, journeys to explore. Most importantly, it's just a ton of fun, and it brings more of that to the table than anything else on this list.
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Best Modern Surf Gremmy


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