By Surprise's "Criteria" song premiere and pre-order!

The wonderfully fantastic By Surprise have a new EP and a new song for you! The new material picks up right where the more focused sound of their 2011 full length Mountain Smashers left off — and even builds upon it. The new material paired with album artwork by Brian Meitz and shirt artwork by Jeremie Rose Wimbrow is a total win-win-win (so, like, ya know, really no losses here, you guys).


Listen to the song — The title track, "Criteria" — over on Alternative Press and pre-order the new EP at the Topshelf store.

Criteria, recorded to analog tape with Mountain Smashersproducer Dave Downham at Familyre Studios, begins with a blast of feedback, guitars riffing fuzzily, ringing out, and pick sliding with some twinkly bits thrown in. The title track features Pat Gartland’s off kilter voice, sometimes terse sometimes warbly, intoning lines with a directness not audible in past recordings — “Just because I don’t open my mouth as much you, doesn’t mean that I’m down or out.” The chorus showcases By Surprises’ penchant for layered vocals and a sensibility for sneaky melodies, hooks that catch up with you unexpectedly. The three song offering is familiar without treading old territory, masterfully embracing adulthood while conjuring a sense of youthful splendor; a glimmering self awareness swirling around every song.

-Shawn Massak
Antennae Wedding
Brighton, MA

Listen to the song — The title track, "Criteria" — over on Alternative Press and pre-order the new EP at the Topshelf store.

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By Surprise start work on new EP!


Our favoritist South Jersey indie rockers By Surprise have started work on their new EP! The EP will be produced and engineered by Dave Downham (who was also at the helm of their 2011 Topshelf debut, Mountain Smashers) at Familyre Studios in New Jersey, where such artists as mewithoutYou and Sufjan Stevens have recently recorded.

Look for the release of the new 7” later this year!

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By Surprise Mountain Smashers anniversary & new 7"!


A year ago today, we released By Surprise's Mountain Smashers. It's one of our favorite records we've put out and I don't expect that to change. To celebrate, we're putting it on sale and announcing a new EP from the band! Now's the perfect time to pick up a copy if you never got around to it a year ago. Head on over to the store and check it out. It's now just SIX BUCKS. That's like, 50% off, basically.

If you're still on the fence, why not appeal to what highly regarded, well-esteemed critics far and wide have had to say about Mountain Smashers:

I have been digging this record! Familiarly uncomfortable yet definitely trekking into new musical realms. If you can't get into the opening guitar riff of 'Books By Thoreau,' something is wrong with you.

- Travis Shettel, TS & The Past haunts, Piebald

Greg Horbal strongly recommended this record to me but dude jams Bomb The Music Industry and Sublime all the time so I immediately dismissed it. I was a fool. It took a few listens to really resonate with me but next thing I know, I'm having day-time outdoor sex in a swimming pool with the words "artichokes with lettuce, corn on the cob with roses" repeated over and over the stereo like a wild aquatic sex mantra. I have no clue what that line is supposed to mean but "Mountain Smashers" slays and you are a fool for thinking otherwise. Pose in hell.

-Derrick Shanholtzer, The World Is A Beautful Place & I Am No Longer Afraid to Die. SOFX, One Hundred Year Ocean

Such a fun record, calling heavily on all of my favorite 90′s emo / indie influences. however, they give the style such a great facelift and breathe new life into it instead of just becoming another imitator. this record was a sleeper. don’t sleep on it.

-Evan Weiss, Into It. Over It.

So, all that said, we've been talking about the details of this all for a bit now and, more recently, how and when we'd announce it. When last night I missed a call from Rob Wilcox and awoke to a voicemail that really just hammers all the main points home for me. So, without further adieu, the one. The only. Intoxicated Rob Wilcox (with southern twang? Is that even what that is? What IS that?):

If you can't make any of that out (understandable), here's the main points:

By Surprise will be entering the studio in late May/Early June to record their next 7” with Dave Downham (Mountain Smashers) at Familyre Studios (mewithoutYou, Sufjan Stevens, Danielson). We'll have more info soon!

Lastly, don't forget to catch the band playing with the likes of Into It. Over It. / A Great Big Pile of Leaves / The World Is A Beautiful Place & I Am No Longer AFraid to Die / Young Statues / Heartwell / Everyone Everywhere! Info / tickets are here.

Happy Mountain Smashers anniversary, everyone!

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Info for Tonight!


Our CMJ showcase (sponsored by Greenvans!) is tonight!

Doors are at 7pm and the first 50 people in will get a free 12x18 screen printed poster!


The line up's below:

  • 7:30pm - Sirs
  • 8:15pm - Prawn
  • 9:00pm - The World Is...
  • 9:45pm - By Surprise
  • 10:30pm - The Clippers
  • 11:15pm - The Saddest Landscape
  • 12:00am - A Great Big Pile of Leaves

There will be $1 shots, $2 beers, $3 mixed drinks and FREE love from Topshelf. We'll also have our entire catalog with all of our new and old releases on hand along with some shirts and other goodies.

Need a ride? Coordinate with other people for rides here!

See you tonight!

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Topshelf Records 2011 CMJ Showcase

By Surprise & Topshelf Records

By Surprise

In continuing with a more-than-welcomed theme we’ve established lately of working with good friends, we’re elated to announce that we’ll be working with Haddon Heights, NJ’s By Surprise in releasing their forthcoming debut LP Mountain Smashers on vinyl.

The LP will see an official release in mid-March with pre-orders beginning in February. The first pressing will be limited to 500 copies.

Mountain Smashers was recorded in the band’s hometown of Haddon Heights, NJ at The Gradwell House with Dave Downham of Up Up Down Down Left Right Left Right B A Start. The album was mastered by Bob Weston at Chicago Mastering Service. Weston, bassist of Shellac and also an elder statesman of the independent music scene, has also worked on records with such bands as Archers of Loaf, Boys Life, Polvo, The Get Up Kids, Vitreous Humor, Sebadoh, and LCD Soundsystem.

For more info on By Surprise, check out their bio page on Topshelf Records including pictures and music.

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