Reefer Reefer

[Alpha Pup; 2008]

Styles: trip-pop, experimental, reggae, surf pop
Others: Islands, The Unicorns, Yeasayer

Nicholas Thorburn, a.k.a. Nick Diamonds, has a curious preoccupation with nature. His experiences fronting indie-pop outfits Islands and The Unicorns are tinged with references to whales, rivers, and the sea. It then comes as no surprise that the prolific singer-songwriter's debut effort with his newest project Reefer is heavily influenced by the Hawaiian landscape that spawned its creation. Recorded on the shores of Maui with hip-hop producer Daddy Kev, the duo incorporates the island's gentle seaside rhythms to create a luscious soundscape composed of sonic waves and sun-drenched harmonies. The band's debut self-titled work – originally given the cutesy name The Life Narcotic – takes its listener on a peaceful trek through weed-soaked Hawaiian beaches to the tune of euphoric strings and trippy beats.

Composed of six full-length tracks, three interludes, and remixes by Dntel and Flying Locus, Reefer delves into a variety of genres without losing its quintessential laid-back flavor. While composed sea-side, the collection's surfy hits are toned-down with a subtle darkness characteristic of Thorburn's other projects. One example is “Blue Moon,” a reworking of the classic ’30s ballad. While the track is a distinctive remake, it incorporates subdued beats, reminiscent of a day spent beach-side drinking coconut juice, overpowered by Thorburn's ominous and foreboding vocals. This juxtaposition adds a delightful touch to the over-done classic, making it both blissful and slightly spooky.

One of the record's better cuts is “May Baleen,” a loop-filled track touched with a slight reggae feel. Opening with a sample of an incoming tide, it encompasses all the bliss to be had drinking -- and perhaps engaging in other narcotics -- on a beach far away from home. “Let It Go” is a more composed ballad, though still tinged with the tranquil seaside loops that permeate throughout the rest of the record. All of the album's tracks -- interludes and remixes included -- are composed of this serene feel, which begs the questions of whether or not Reefer is able to push itself beyond this one technique. As a whole, Reefer has proven its capacity for producing sunshine hits, but only time will tell if it will be able to push itself past the spaced-out beaches of Maui and towards more diverse soundscapes.

    1. The Simplest Way2. May Baleen3. Body Heat4. Let It Go5. Five Hundred An Ounce6. Crony Island (feat. Busdriver)7. Hit and Run8. Blue Moon9. Until We Meet Again10. Hit and Run (Dntel Remix)11. Let It Go (Flying Lotus Remix)