Like the thoughts I’m prone to mull over when I sit underneath the deepening hood of twilight, watching the stars come out, there’s an introspective thread in the new Nada Surf album that illuminates the conflicting desires most of us feel in adult life. On “Weightless,” frontman Matthew Caws sings to all of us who have ever felt too inexperienced to be in control of these big decisions and important duties:
is like eating speed or flying a plane
it’s too bright,
it’s too bright . . . “
And then the same song breaks into a pause, a reverie, and over a muted piano melody Caws muses quietly:
“behind every desire
is another one
waiting to be liberated
when the first one’s sated“
Such is life through the lens of Nada Surf’s stunningly fantastic fifth album, Lucky, which comes out February 5th on Barsuk Records. Folks, this is poised to be my favorite record of the year at the rate that I’ve been listening to on my iPod, in the car, on repeat til the CD gets hot. Rare is the album that’s this sonically pleasing with equal depth and nuance in the lyrics.
The sixteen years that Matthew Caws, Ira Elliot, and Daniel Lorca have been making music together show in the confident elegance of this multi-hued album. It’s full of earnest flourishes that pay homage to sublime sounds of the past, from the cascade of harmonies at the end of “Weightless” that feel like super-relaxed Beach Boys in a hammock, to the ‘oooo oooo oooo’s in “Are You Lightning?” that remind me of waiting on a friend. I’m addicted to the way this album sounds, with the shimmering landslides of melody, the driving rhythms, the bright chime of the guitars.
Nada Surf, like the rest of us, are growing up. The opening song, “See These Bones,” wrestles a bit with that mortality (“what you are now, we were once / but just like we are, you’ll be dust“), and finds Caws singing this simple line that only really hit me after several listens:
“too tired to eat
too hungry to sleep“
Simple, right? Throwaway? . . . No. The ache and the weariness in his voice when he sings these lines gets me. He’s talking about being unable to fulfill needs and desires, each one competing with the other for primacy, and what a draining place that is to find yourself in.
But in addition to their observations about this thing called adult life, there’s also a pervasive and uplifting theme throughout on the love of music and its ability to shine a light. My absolute favorite song on this album is “Beautiful Beat,” whose chorus has these soaring lines:
“beautiful beat get me out of this mess
beautiful beat lift me up from distress
. . . I believe our love can save me
have to believe that it can“
It’s that faith in the redeeming power in music that I find so heartening, and why I am thrilled about this album. It’s a must-buy for you in 2008 (pre-order it here). I’ll be seeing Nada Surf in San Francisco next weekend and bringing you guys an interview. I’ve heard amazing things about the power of their live show, and next Saturday will be an acoustic set that should really let those harmonies show brilliantly.
Nada Surf is now streaming the entire album on their MySpace, so go listen. Start with “Beautiful Beat,” then go back to the first and listen all the way through to the flawless, gorgeous final notes of “The Film Did Not Go ‘Round.” Walk away feeling sated that albums like this still exist.
See These Bones (with Ben Gibbard) – Nada Surf