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Nada Surf have flirted with the fringes of popular music since their breakthrough single 'Popular'. With the release of their fourth album 'The Weight is a Gift' produced by Chris Walla (of Death Cab for Cutie) , Nada Surf push their music even further into the power pop genre and even add some soaring choruses for good measure.
The album starts with 'Concrete Bed', a nice middle of the road melodic track that doesn't stand out particularly on its own but does introduce the theme of finding love, with an exceptional lyric 'To find someone you love, You've got to be someone you love' particularly effective and memorable. The track does pick up in tempo towards the 2 minute mark, and is a perfectly acceptable opening to the album.
The second track, 'Do It Again', is an early highlight of the album and an exceptional track in itself. Starting with a simple drum beat and bass line and building through guitar lines, it reminds of a less urgent brother of 'Hi-speed soul' from their previous album 'Let Go'. Matthew Caws, the lead singer, seems to really get his vocals around the lyrics and the sweet harmonies anchoring the beautiful, bruised chorus injected with the increasing urgency make it difficult to understand why this wasn't a single. The rising choruses are similar in tone to the Foo Fighters, but less heavy, and they keep building to a breathless final chorus. An early treat.
'Always Love' is the third track on the album and the first single to be released off the album, an obvious choice on first listen. Always Love is a straight up rock song, which ended being covered by, of all bands, America! Continuing the theme of love from the first track, the song encourages love through the lyrics of 'Always love, hate will get you everytime' and 'Don't wait til the finish line'. The song again feels similar to an upbeat Foo Fighters song and is an effective straight up radio rock track.
This is followed by 'What Is Your Secret?', which is a slower track with more restrained acoustic guitars and is the low point of the album so far, while far from a painful experience, it is just a bland disappointment of a track, in stark contrast with the fifth track on the album,'Your Legs Grow'. This track was originally performed as an acoustic stripped down track on 'Future Soundtrack for America' but is re-invented as a beautiful humming ballad, with gorgeous harmonies, soft acoustic guitars and gentle distortion. The lyric 'You're the only person in the world, I feel this way about' might just be the best lyric Caws has written so far in his Nada Surf career, and has helped the song find regular rotation among this reviewer's collection.
The next two tracks are more straight forward rock tracks, 'All Is A Game' is a tentative straight forward rock track which seems to reach for a chorus and never quite reach it, which disappoints slightly, but it is a nice enough track to forgive and certainly grows more likeable with more listens. This is followed by 'Blankest Year' which is a great upbeat track, a party record by Nada Surf! I wouldn't have believed it if I hadn't heard it myself. This track is just pure fun, throw in a few completely un-necessary F-bombs that just make the song even more enjoyable and a great chorus, just a disappointment it only lasts just over 2 minutes. Great track and no surprise it was released as the third single off the album.
'Comes a Time', is the next track and is presumably influenced by Neil Young, but is unfortunately the most disappointing track on the album. A washed out mess of an acoustic track, that seems devoid of energy and emotion, it saps energy from the album and wouldn't have been missed if it was left out. Not a terrible track, but so uninspiring and dull it needs to be mentioned. 'In The Mirror' on the other hand is a lovely jangly track, which manages to sound nothing like Nada Surf, and exactly like them at the same time, and is a nice slow burning experience after the preceding rock tracks.
The final two tracks 'Armies Walk' and 'Imaginary Friends' close the album out in some style. 'Armies Walk' starts as a languid rock track which escalates into power chords during the chorus, and is an unremarkable but enjoyable song. The final track on the album is the second single from the album, and is pure unadulterated fun, with a radio-friendly chorus and clean sounding power chords and shows Nada Surf at their very best as an upbeat rock band.
Overall, the good moments outweigh the bad moments significantly, only a couple of tracks disappoint and neither are exactly terrible. Highlights are 'Do It Again', 'Your Legs Grow' and 'Imaginary Friends'. Definitely worth checking the album out, and they're upto it again with a new album 'Lucky' very soon.
Disc #1 Tracklisting
1 Concrete Bed
2 Do It Again
3 Always Love
4 What Is Your Secret
5 Your Legs Grow
6 All Is A Game
7 Blankest Year
8 Comes A Time
9 In The Mirror
10 Armies Walk
11 Imaginary Friends
Disc #2 Tracklisting
1 From The Rooftop Down
3 Concrete Bed Original
4 Au Fond du Rêve Doré
5 Always Love (video)