Though the world is hardly hurting for sixties-inspired doo-wop indie rock, Gringo Star‘s latest release, Floating Out To See, skews rock and roll in an irrepressibly colorful direction that’s too much fun not to pay attention to. Brothers Nicholas and Peter Furgiuele grew up raiding their parents’ record collection, and it shows: the Atlanta-based trio composed of the two brothers and, most recently, multi-instrumentalist Chris Kaufmann repurpose sunny riffs and hummable harmonies from sixties rock. Sometimes, their music could fit right onto a record from that decade, but more often a Gringo Star song feels like more than imitation: they recall the atmosphere of blissful excitement behind a Beach Boys song or a Turtles song, but along with evocative chord progressions and a generous helping of reverb, Gringo Star mix in plenty of modern-day psychedelic bells and whistles to bring off the finish.
The name, in fact, is not a Beatles reference. As the group told one interviewer a couple of years ago, it’s inspired by Mexican slang they’d picked up working in kitchens. That anecdote gives you a decent idea of what to expect going into Floating Out To See: the project was entirely DIY, the first of the group’s three albums to be put together without a producer, and the tracks on this thing are short, catchy, and crackling. The album sounds like a brilliantly half-baked bid for glory, but if you listen closer, the distortion on this record cloaks a lot of melodic detail and very strong musicianship. It’s as if Gringo Star wants to make simply-constructed instant hits, but can’t resist slipping him an extra riff or harmony here and there.
Then there are the unexpected instrumental breaks that pepper this album. Though they don’t seem to fit into the rest of the music at all, the musical lines are a pleasure to listen to, both on their own and laid over the rest of the band. The first song on this album, “In The Heat,” barely sees a vocal line, instead giving itself over to an easy beat that saunters through the track from start to finish. It’s an unpredictable opener for a band like Gringo Star, and although so many of the group’s beats and harmonies are well-worn, it’s only one of the ways in which Float Out To See defies expectations. Six tracks in, “Satisfy My Mind” melts from a fast-paced cut-and-copy rock number into an extended drum solo, which lasts for a solid thirty seconds.
With tightly controlled musicality, the album speeds up, and slows down, and speeds up again. Sometimes brooding, sometimes barely containing its excitement, Float Out To See contains an impressive number of elegant shifts in mood and intent. Gringo Star hits a gorgeous balance of immaturity and sophistication here, which, hopefully, will afford them room to experiment for many albums to come.
Find Gringo Star on Facebook, and watch the music video for “Find A Love,” off Floating Out To See, here: