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Nothing Doing by Surtsey: An Ethereal Blend of Country Roots and Indie Nuances

Subtle, Poetic, and Profoundly Engaging


In the indie music landscape, few bands manage to meld traditional influences with innovative soundscapes quite like Surtsey. Their latest EP, “Nothing Doing,” recorded in the musical heartland of St. Louis, MO, is a testament to this unique blend, delivering a brief yet poignant exploration of alt-country and indie-folk through five meticulously crafted tracks. With an entire EP written under the influence of Buck Meek’s songwriting prowess at the School of Song, Surtsey delves deep into the narrative soul of Americana while venturing into indie experimentation, creating a sound that’s both familiar and intriguingly novel.

Photo by Chris Bauer

Track-by-Track Texture

“Stick” opens the EP with a gentle yet assertive assertion of identity. Driven by a melodic steel guitar that weaves through the track, the song carries an anthem-like quality, poetic in delivery yet robust in its musical arrangement. The steel, not merely an instrument here, becomes a narrator of sorts, enhancing the lyrical storytelling with its soul-stirring movements.

“Knot to Force” is the EP’s standout, a warm, laidback track that exemplifies the band’s alt-country prowess. Lyrics like “this old horse ain’t giving in” and “you left a quarter on a bottlecap in my room on my nightstand” showcase a knack for classic imagery intertwined with tender romance. The production blends bright, bluesy guitar strums with a mellow bass and chugging beats, crowned by a wistful pedal steel that pulls at the heartstrings. The song concludes with a reflective nod to existential balance, stating, “in God’s teeth we’re all the same.”

“T-shirt / Avalanche” shifts gears slightly, offering a contemporary rhythmic shuffle that explodes into a rock-driven ballad halfway through. This track is a journey within itself, starting with compelling lead vocals and escalating into a melodic avalanche that showcases the band’s ability to craft dynamic, immersive soundscapes reminiscent of Midlake and Wilco.

“Useful” presents a serene, introspective narrative. The track highlights a melodic guitar solo enveloped in reverb, creating an ethereal atmosphere that complements the poetic delivery of the lyrics. It’s a track that encapsulates the thoughtful essence of the entire EP.

“Barley and Cherries” closes the EP on a reflective note. This soft ballad acts as an ode to simpler times, with soothing melodies that resonate long after the song ends. The use of the sweet swelling steel once again plays a significant role, its gentle caresses adding layers of emotional depth to the song.

“Nothing Doing” by Surtsey is a richly textured EP that speaks volumes in its brief 15-minute runtime. It’s a perfect example of how traditional country sounds can be reimagined within the indie genre, creating a sound that’s both reflective and forward-thinking. The masterful use of the steel guitar careens across the EP not only ties the tracks together but elevates the narrative, making it an essential mention for anyone exploring the intersection of country and indie music.

Fans of Neil Young, Tim McGraw, and newer indie influences like Wilco will find “Nothing Doing” a worthwhile listen, a beacon of thoughtful songwriting and nuanced musicality in today’s indie music scene.