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.

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