By the time you reach a song called "Golden Age" on Beach Fossils' debut LP, you've already heard tracks titled "Sometimes," "Daydream" and "Youth," so it seems like a safe bet that they're not referring to life after 60 here. Main man Dustin Payseur rattles off lines like, "'Cause we're trying to get lost, we both know that" and, "'Cause in the Golden Age, we will never die" like he's reading from his diary, opening a direct line to the multifarious emotions that come with being twenty-something. With lyrics that embrace the classic post-teenage struggle of finding your place in the big picture, the album channels a familiar strain of sincerity and weariness established by everyone from the Jesus and Mary Chain to Bright Eyes. Rather than exposing the fragility of growing up, though, these lyrics convey youth's sense of immunity—the "we are too pure, we will never die" sentiment on "Golden Age" pops up throughout the record.
Primarily written by Payseur after moving to Brooklyn from North Carolina last year, the album drips with nostalgia—no surprise there, if you've been following the Brooklyn music scene this past year. Sonically, it longs for the jangly indie-pop of Teenbeat Records' heyday while its reverb-heavy production—Payseur's vocals might as well have been recorded underwater—aims for the more recent, drifty, dreamy feel of their neighborhood buddies, Real Estate. Nothing on album opener "Sometimes" could be classified as punchy, but every element, from the bubbly guitar, plodding drums, rubbery bassline and echoey vocals, is easy to isolate. Together, they make for a dreaminess that barely, gloriously avoids turning to mush. This format is more or less carried throughout the next ten tracks, putting the focus squarely on Payseur's ability to write a relentless string of hooks.
Emotionally, its source of nostalgia is a bit more difficult to pin down. Summer seems to be a strong candidate. Home. Childhood. But also what seems to be a perpetual desire to be anywhere but where you are. When we're 13, we wish we were 16. When we're 28, we wish we were 22. When we're living in New York City, we wish we were in North Carolina. It's a feeling that comes across as very American, something that comes from growing up within the white picket fence the album cover suggests, and from constantly being told that you have the world at your fingertips. In this light, the record reads like a This American Life version of today's indie-pop, full of references to vacation, horses, grassy fields and other relics of all-American suburbia. Musically, Beach Fossils are playing an updated version of Americana—their sound is wholly pleasant, inoffensive, and rooted in tradition. It wouldn't be weird for it to soundtrack a Kevin Arnold and Winnie Cooper through-the-years montage.
Some may argue there's no reason to provide those in their typically self-indulgent post-collegiate years with more self-centered, insular music, but for a genre where confused, awkward, hopeful, half-damaged 20-year-olds have long been the majority demographic, Beach Fossils have tapped into something relatable, if not universal.