Deep Cuts, Love Grows EP
If you’d ever wondered if there’s a middle ground between surf-rock, shoegaze, Latino pop, and Afrobeat, well, wonder no more, because on their debut EP, Love Grows, Houston’s Deep Cuts have found it and planted their flag deep, deep in the sand. The quintet somehow manages to blend together Latin-tinged pop, wavery dream-pop guitars, Afrobeat rhythms, and surf-rock vibes and vocals into something wholly new that’s damn near irresistible.
Their opening salvo pretty much sets the tone; “Cigarette Boat” is cheerful, tropical-sounding, and brief, with a surprisingly Beach Boys-esque vocal bit during the closing break, and the band then launches immediately into the bright, warm, beach-like “Causeway,” which comes off like a happy crossbreeding of Vampire Weekend and Surfer Blood. It starts out fast and peppy, with a hint of a Caribbean sound it it, but about midway it downshifts into a hazy, head-nodding psych-pop tune that leaves you feeling like you’re drifting on the surf, floating out to sea with the tide.
Further along, “Serpents” is watery and laidback, with an awesomely wavery, aquatic guitar sound, “Arcus Cloud” is fast and nimble, dancing along with a smile and daring you to come join in, “Alchemist” is jaunty and wide-smiling, almost like a Brazilian pop song gone surf, and closing track “Barely There” is almost samba-like in terms of rhythm, albeit with a fuzzy-edged indie-rock sound to it, too.
Put together as a whole, Love Grows is like the soundtrack to every sunburned, woozy, who-gives-a-fuck? trip I’ve ever taken down to the coast. Listening drags me backwards to hot nights out off the washed-out San Luis Pass road, camped out under the stars with bottles of Goldschlager and the lights of oil rigs on the horizon, long hours waiting in line for the Galveston ferry and not really caring when it’ll arrive, and sitting on the sand with friends and the gorgeous sky clear blue out to the horizon.
Given the overall “summer”-ness of the EP, by the by, I’ll adit that it may seem a little weird that Love Grows is being released in late September, when a lot of the country’s headed full-speed into fall and beach gear gets packed away ’til next year. It’s all about the context, however; these five guys (Chase Harris, Austin Garrison, Chase DeMaster, Gabe Lopez, and Zach Alderman) hail from Houston (and Galveston, apparently, which makes a lot of sense), my own adopted home, where it’s currently still 90 degrees and humid as hell outside. In this part of the world, we essentially only have two seasons, Summer and Not-Summer, and you can tell when you’re in the latter because it rains more and your brain doesn’t quite melt to goo when you step outside.
Ignoring the timing, then, and going back to the aforementioned Surfer Blood comparison, this EP is the best chilled-out summer music I’ve heard in a long while, possibly my favorite since that band’s should-be-classic Astro Coast, and even then, Love Grows beats out Coast by virtue of being a whole lot friendlier and more mellow. Surfer Blood steps up and demands your attention. Deep Cuts, on the other hand, are just going to sit back and do what they do whether you’re paying attention or not — oh, and they’ll shoot you a sneaky smile while they do it.