When one listens to Surfer Blood’s newest album, Snowdonia, it doesn’t sound like tragedy recently hit the band. Judging from the whimsical guitar riffs and lighthearted harmonies, the fact that the album’s eight tracks were recorded without longtime guitarist Thomas Fekete would never cross your mind. And as these songs come together to form one cohesive piece, it’s almost unbelievable to think lead singer John Paul Pitts mixed the music while coping with the news of Fekete’s death.

On the album’s opening track, “Matter of Time,” Pitts sings to an insecure lover about the need for patience, a quality that overextends into almost any matter. Time is necessary to form meaningful relationships. Time is necessary to help build our strengths. And time is necessary to cope with losses and reemerge.

With Snowdonia, Surfer Blood truly demonstrates both artistic maturation and flexibility despite dealing with Fekete’s passing and former bass guitarist Kevin Williams’ departure since the band’s last LP. Joined by new members Lindsey Mills and Mike McCleary, the band carefully tweaks its sound to showcase its newfound skills. Every song employs layered backing vocals to accentuate Pitts’ honeyed voice as he sings over reverb-drenched electric guitars and tambourines.

While Snowdonia moves at the same pace as the band’s previous albums, it omits much more dulcet sounds due to the sometimes stark variations in rhythm. This is the first time since Surfer Blood’s debut, Astro Coast, that Pitts has written and mixed an album alone. As tracks such as “Frozen” and “Dino Jay” emerge as examples of lush surfer music, it becomes clear the album’s cascading melodies are products of an intricate, detail-oriented process.

Pitts’ voice may not be appropriate for melisma or complex belts, but it is full of sentimentality. On some songs, he dares to climb in pitch alongside a pile of guitars to achieve a propulsive tune. “Six Flags in F or G” boasts an almost sinister, aggressively catchy guitar riff to create a spooky but instrumentally impressive track. The song’s dramatic change in tempo a couple of minutes in was a bold move that allows its listeners to fully appreciate Surfer Blood’s ability to delicately balance its music.

Not all songs are able to achieve this same effect. “Taking Care of Eddy” begins as a messy, noisy collection of instruments and the plethora of harmonies midway through does little to detract from Pitts’ nearly lifeless voice as he repeats the choruses. Nonetheless, the creative moves Surfer Blood is making is bringing them closer to becoming a versatile act. While it’s clear the band is moving further and further in a different artistic direction, its musical intentions remain pure.