Although “Surf Trap” is the first album for Felly under a major record label, he does not reinvent himself in his latest release, but rather matures as an artist while keeping the fun, youthful elements of his music alive.
“Surf Trap” is a compilation that proves Felly knows himself, knows his audience, and knows that he’s doing what he loves. This is precisely why the album is so contagious and versatile, even though the sound remains relatively consistent from song to song.
The opening track, “Dying To Tell You,” is filled with quintessential elements of Felly’s persona and sets the tone for the rest of his album. Filled with lyrical bits about love (while still bragging about the attention he receives from women), “Dying To Tell You” is Felly’s ultimate confession that fame has not changed him. If anything, Felly’s new success allows him a more streamlined and polished production for the same music he’s always created.
Felly began releasing music in 2011 while still in high school, growing a fanbase through YouTube and eventually touring the United States. Though he hails from Connecticut, he attended the University of Southern California (and yes, he did finish school before focusing solely on his music career). Historically, Felly’s sound has been laid-back: a mix of trap, jazz, and light guitar, with (usually) upbeat lyrics about being young and enjoying life.
The visual aesthetic of “Surf Trap” is much like its sound: a carefully crafted, well-thought-out piece masked by a veneer of fun, energetic, seemingly uncaring effort. The retro album art for “Surf Trap” depicts Felly on a tropical beach, dressed as the grim reaper, staring blankly into the camera.
This is very much the ‘cool kid’ vibe of today: not so invested as to seem straightforwardly cool, but cool enough to still score points for style and color choices that make up a theme (for Felly, this is a faded mint green and washed out blue, both of which fill his website from font to background).
Also noteworthy is the inability to read Felly’s facial expression on the cover: his unkempt, curly hair blows to the side, keeping a vagueness about him.
“Surf Trap” is the latest addition to a fairly large discography: Felly has released 12 albums and numerous singles. Some of these albums are more roughly compiled than others, but even so, there have been many years in which Felly released more than one album in the same year.
“Surf Trap” is more energetic and more streamlined than his older releases. There are no songs on “Surf Trap” that feel incomplete, but there is also less of a sense of personal communication and connection to Felly himself. The album feels best suited to fun, relaxed situations like driving with the windows down or hanging out with friends.
In the same song where Felly alludes to getting “played [by a girl] like the Migos,” Felly sings “don’t go catchin’ feelings, I’m already emo,” communicating, maybe, that he is ready to shed his more transparent self and become his own idea of a star, almost as if he is stepping more into a famous character and out of his old ‘normal’ self.
Stardom, for Felly, began the day he signed to Sony Entertainment. One song off “Surf Trap,” titled “Reinvention,” speaks to this switch up: “it’s an addiction, this self-affliction / I’m on a mission.”
In an interview with Billboard, Felly said: “I appreciate [Sony’s] intense belief in me as an artist and human being. Now it’s time to carry out my vision with some more ammo behind me.”
“Surf Trap” definitely continues Felly’s vision, only this time, with higher production quality and catchier hooks. Will this ultimately have a price, sacrificing meaningful lyrics and a sense of storytelling in Felly’s music? “Surf Trap” indicates it won’t, but only time will tell.
Ella Boyd is a first-year from Maine who attends Scripps College. She traded alpine skiing for writing for the student paper, and enjoys creating art through film, music, and poetry.