red lights


No longer steeped in
adolescent angst

Nada Surf - The Weight Is a Gift
(Barsuk Records)
4 stars (out of 5 stars)
Reviewed: Jan. 19, 2006
Nada Surf

Review by Andy Argyrakis

Even with over a decade in business, Nada Surf's mainstream pop resume is somewhat thin, consigned mostly to the glow of 1995's debut disc High/Low and subsequent MTV fame. But in the time that followed, the group has developed more withstanding credibility as indie rockers, starting after its second CD The Proximity Effect was caught up in major label red tape and its third effort Let Go found a home on Barsuk Records in 2003. Besides being the band's rebirthing place, the label is perhaps best known for being Death Cab For Cutie's springboard to success, both of whom have been longtime fans of one another. In fact, that connection manifested itself in Nada Surf's latest The Weight Is a Gift being co-produced by its members, along with Death Cab For Cutie's guitarist Chris Walla.

The results are unlike Death Cab's disappointing new record and more along the lines of its earlier pop/rock era crossed with the pure power pop and instantly infectious beats that have made Nada Surf unsung heroes of the underground for the past decade. Several cases in point include the sunny yet sophisticated opener "Concrete Bed," the jumpy and robust "Always Love" and the more inward looking, subdued acoustics of "What Is Your Secret?" Along the way, melodies abound and hooks are abundant, recalling the likes of Weezer in a more sedate state or The Cars without the glam and glossiness. That latter connection rings especially true considering Ric Ocasek has previously produced Nada Surf sessions to delightful results.

From a songwriting perspective, the group of thirty-somethings address life through a lens no longer steeped in adolescent angst but one that's not necessarily depressed, disillusioned or defeated. Even when the mood turns dark, the abundance of harmonies and cheerfully layered guitars presents a delicious irony that's still easily digested and quite relatable. "Blankest Year" runs with such qualities to the utmost degree, honestly portraying struggles surrounding exhaustion, but with chipper undertones that could revive even someone going through the motions of a comatose life. In the end, such delightfully capricious expressions and the ensuing sonic warmth make the latest in Nada Surf's lineage amongst its most applauded and uplifting.

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