Jason Ebbs follows a daringly creative path on his latest album, blending an, at times, shocking—yet still endearing—set of genres.

“Beach music” has arguably been out of the limelight for the past forty-odd years, save for, maybe, the Beach Boys and their copycat diaspora. But as Jason Ebbs has shown through his latest album, Superego, beach music has been more “waiting” than “dead.” He’s found a way to rejuvenate it in an original, creative way, genre-blending not simply to experiment, but to add meaning to the genre.

 

During beach music’s dormancy, time has given American culture, musical sounds, and general trends a facelift. Ebbs’ evocation helps us pay attention to those changes. Once hidden by intoxicating, hypnotic melodies, he now casts the genre under new light. Superego does so in a lo-fi psych-pop style with both stylistic and lyrical streaks of melancholy historically absent from the style. It provides contrast to the beach music from that now-distant era, with subtle changes highlighted starkly through minute yet persistent inconsistencies. A psychedelic-drenched spacey hybrid of beachiness, “Annabelle Seabreeze” is a jaunty ‘70s-prom-strutting, guitar-strumming, punk rock-esque track with explosive vocal melody-backed ballad leads à la “The Lizard King. The track in itself gives beachiness a whole new meaning, with Ebb’s own creative mark. 

It may be tempting to categorize beach music as unoriginal: taking an already perfected sound that rose, fell, and vanished a long time ago, and using it to play the nostalgia card. As effortless and unenergetic as those judgments may seem, there lies in Jason Ebbs’ Superego a deeper layer of originality and honesty; it not only transcends clichés, but also subsists through the perpetuation of a seemingly “dead” genre.

The big joke about having the audacity to take a crack at such a genre, is trying to do it well without being kitschy. Ebbs seems to have pulled off a hybrid—sappy/gushy lyrics padded by deeper, more provocative lines, for example: “So why do the stars come out / When you cry / They’re shining for another” and “‘Cause I tried to make myself love you / But I just think you’re too nice / So I tried to make you be meaner” explore ideas of love and relationships arguably much more melancholic and memorably than that of those in times past. 

Building further on this notion of the catchy-electrified-moodiness of neo–beach pop, “Highlight Reel” is an almost tropical, infectiously-hyper track with a high-frequency synthesizer foundation that sounds almost like a steel drum. “Voyagers (We Should Have Done)” maintains the exploding energy of the previous track with an exhilarating, if not jarring, 180° borderline-dubstep cut, exploding around the midway mark into a euphoric blanket of semi-cacophonous noise, creating what could only be described as a fog-filled neon dancefloor of hard-hitting sound, roaring synths, repetitive, intense drum patterns, and disguised melody cushioning the whole soundscape.

And, continuing the trend of skillful genre-jumping, “Sleeping Giant” sounds like a late-‘90s Britpop anthem—followed up immediately by the cathartic, marching piano serenade of “Caroline (Amazon)”. Ebbs builds up this amalgam of an album perhaps dizzyingly, nonetheless daringly—and on most accounts, pretty well

Attempting something like this is cocky, for sure: adding creatively and productively to a genre when it seems like nothing more could possibly be said. But it seems Jason Ebbs has done it, in his own 2019 indie/synth/punk/art rock kind of way.

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