It’s safe to say that the New York band Nada Surf have had their fair share of ups and downs, and I am glad they are here to stay. Nada Surf formed in the early 90s in New York City. Matthew Caws (Guitar/Vocals) and Daniel Lorca (Bass) attended Lycee francais de New York, an exclusive French-medium school, with Ira Elliot (Drums) to join in 1995.
In 1996 Nada Surf unexpectedly found Major success signing to Elektra with the release of their debut album “High/Low.” Most commonly known for their hit “Popular.” Despite the single, Hi/Low is a really solid album, with standout tracks such as “Stalemate.”
In 1998 the band released their followup album, “The Proximity Effect.” At this time Nada Surf had a falling out with Elektra as the label asked then to write a hit, pushing on cover tracks like Vitreous Humor’s “Why Are You So Mean to Me” (also a very good band/album). However the band refused to work on the album any further, believing it was artistically perfect. I am biased, however I will just state now the album is nothing short of perfect. Eventually, the band was dropped from Elektra and spent the next few years struggling to get the rights over the album to release it on their own terms. Personal standout tracks: “80 Windows”, “Bacardi”, “Robot.”
In 2002 the band released what is often referred to as their “comeback” album “Let Go.” Released on Barsuk. Coincidentally, I sort of re-discovered Nada Surf through Barsuk records about the time Let Go was released. I remember hearing the song “The Way You Wear Your Head” and falling in love with the song and album soon after. The album has the perfect mix of catchy melodic indie rock songs with short guitar solos (Hi-Speed Soul) and some more acoustic based ballads like “Blonde on Blonde” and “Inside of Love.” I also really enjoy bonus tracks “No Quick Fix” and “End Credits.”
“The Weight Is a Gift” is Nada Surf’s fourth length album produced by Death Cab for Cutie guitarist Chris Walla. It was released in 2005 on Barsuk Records. I had read somewhere the the album, “answers questions of lust, deception, greed, love and joy and regret and the rites of passage you weren’t quite ready to pass through.” Standout tracks: “Concrete Bed”, “Always Love”, “What is Your Secret”, “Blankest Year.”
“Lucky” is one of my all time favorite albums. The first four tracks seal the deal for me. From the fingerpicked opening track “See These Bones” climaxing towards the end. Into the albums first single “Whose Authority” which can be described as minimalistic pop music with vulnerable vocals. “Here Goes Something” a fine acoustic ballad.
In 2010 the band recorded a series of covers and released the album titled “If I Had a Hi-Fi.” Noteable tracks include, “Electrocution” a bill fox cover and “Enjoy the Silence” originally by Depeche Mode.
Finally, here we are. The seventh studio album “The Stars Are Indifferent To Astronomy” was released this past tuesday January 24th (Barsuk/US, City Slang/UK). Nada Surf are three musicians who love the way rock music can transport you to a new wonderful place. As stated by Caws, “here was OK, but there was much better,” referring to a set of speakers. I admire bands who have the ability to grow and change, while allowing the simple element that make them who they are present. With this album they do it over and over again.
“Clear Eye Clouded Mind” kicks the album off with a blaze of guitars and distortion with Caw’s unique feathery boyish yet soulful voice. The album’s running theme is the passage of time, which is apparent throughout the whole album with lyrics like “It always feels like I’m waiting for something,” on the albums second track. Or on “When I Was Young,” caws signs “When I was young, I didn’t know if I was better off asleep or up/ I wonder what that world I was dreaming of.”
This theme of passage is also very apparent on one of my favorite tracks “Looking Through,” “Every birthday candle/ that ever got blown out/is one more year of someone/trying to figure it all out.” The album ponders many questions: what to take and leave from youth, how to deal with responsibility, how to stay curious while being content.
Some of the songs offer a lot of imagery from the outside world and feel more of a voyage vs self-analysis on tracks like “The Future.” Yet some feel unconscious. “I like the lines ‘bring me up/deliver me out/ take me to the door/ I’m not running anymore,'” says Caws of “The Moon is Calling,” “because on a certain level, I had no idea what I was talking about, but I felt ecstatic making it up.”
With all being said, this album is more optimistic and has and outward looking in tone. The overall album is summed up in the last lines “and I cannot believe / the future’s happening to me.” And I could not possibly say it better than quoted, “The Stars Are Indifferent to Astronomy continues the notion of music as an alternative reality, and songs as things you can keep by your side for inspiration and support. Which is what makes Nada Surf a truly beloved band.” Well done Nada Surf, Well Done.
The Stars Are Indifferent To Astronomy Tracklist:
1. Clear Eye Clouded Mind
2. Waiting For Something
3. When I Was Young
4. Jules and Jim
5. The Moon Is Calling
6. Teenage Dreams
7. Looking Through
8. Let The Flight Do The Fighting
9. No Snow On The Mountain
10. The Future