Friday, January 4, 2008

Reviews:: Nada Surf Lucky

It seems I've been slowing down on the Canadian content lately, but there are a few US releases that I really wanted to talk about. Well that, and I thought Karmic Whiplash was from Ontario until I looked at their bio.

Anyway... one of the '08 releases I was waiting for anxiously was Nada Surf's Lucky. Their '05 release - The Weight is a Gift - surprisingly became one of my most played CDs over the last couple of years and stepped over Let Go as my favorite from the band.

Lucky seems like a natural progression for the band, influenced by age and experience. Throughout The Weight is a Gift, you sensed Caws being pushed down despite his underlying optimism, and he rebelled with fun tracks about parties or mindless concerns like his Skywalker haircut. Now, his songs have a more grounded perspective.

The band have taken a step back (metaphorically, not in talent) and realized they can't control everything. Love isn't waiting for us around the corner; the pressures of life aren't something we need to succumb to. No, sometimes we just need to let things happen as they will. Caws alludes to that on the most immediate track on the record (and most similar to the tracks on the last record), Weightless. The track, with bigger distorted guitars and a more chaotic structure, plays like Caws admission that what dragged him down on the last record might still bother him, but he's doing his best to make sure it doesn't control him.

The first tihng that grabbed me is the overall calm you feel while listening to this effort. On the surface Lucky is maddeningly consistent. You can't help but love the sounds the band settles in to as they songs really showcase beautiful harmonies and Caws penchant for finding the silver lining. There are enough rockers to keep you moving, but the acoustic driven songs like Beautiful Beat and I Like What You Say make you smile (the strings on the former are great).

But it's when you really get into the record, the layers and intricies start to show. The opening track, See the Bones, features a buoyant guitar noodle that moves the song along nicely, but slowly you get some backing choral vocals and more distortion in the guitar. On Ice on the Wing, the track starts like a lot of classic Nada Surf jams and adds the trademark building crescendo, but they break up the album with the Calexico-ish horn outro. It's just enough to let you relax before they distortion and drums of The Fox start up.

A few months ago, I wrote a very (atypical for us) negative review of the new America record, but mentioned how I enjoyed the version of Always Love they did with Caws. Now, I feel like that record might have given us an unexpected gift. While not exactly a horse with no name, the oldies goodness of Here Goes Something makes you wonder if Caws took something away from that session. The foot stomp and harmonies could easily have been record 20 years ago, but instead of simply relying on a proven formula the band adds some off kilter percussion and electric guitar to keep you guessing.

When I reviewed the last record, I was pretty lukewarm about the whole thing. I liked it enough, but over time it just kept gaining momentum. Lucky peaked my interest faster, so I can only imagine how often I'll reach for it. It's fun and full of depression fueled optimism. More importantly, it's another success for a band that keeps drifting under most people's radars.

MP3:: See These Bones

web site :: label

Posted at 12:46 PM by ack :: 1 comments

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At 4:11 PM, Anonymous Anonymous did sayeth:

Wow, good review.. Can't wait to hear this now.. The Weight is a Gift is a very good album, also one of my favs past couple of years.. I'd also highly recommend The Proximity Effect..


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