Album Reviews: Weight Is a Gift by Nada SurfIn the sea of tragedy called the music business, Nada Surf remain a happy story. The story is well-documented but heartwarming enough to bear repeating: Seemingly consigned to a lifetime of appearances on Remember the '90s?-type compilations for their left-field MTV hit “Popular,” Nada Surf instead reinvented themselves as one of the premier power-pop bands of the past decade. The Weight Is A Gift further solidifies that standing, although it doesn’t displace Let Go as the band’s crown jewel.
Too often pegged as simply a mopey or melancholy band, Nada Surf distinguish themselves from their power-pop peers by injecting some electric guitar adrenaline into the mix (“Armies Walk,” “Imaginary Friends”), not to mention cheerfully profane party songs like “Blankest Year.” Behind the propulsive bass and percussion of radio-ready singles like “Do It Again” (the album’s most accessible track and, oddly, also probably its best) beats the incurable heart of a romantic. Matthew Caws can sound a little too comfortable at times on lead vocals -- it would be nice to see him stretch himself a little further, show listeners more of his breaking points, as he just hints at on opener “Concrete Bed.” He isn’t a dynamic frontman, per se, but he is a highly effective one, his languid vulnerability a perfect counterpart to Nada Surf’s easygoing but intricately crafted pop songs.
The harmonies are lovely throughout, and Death Cab for Cutie’s Chris Walla adds yet another bright feather to his production hat. It would be easy to overproduce a Nada Surf album, but Walla doesn’t take the bait. He strikes the balance just right, keeping The Weight immaculate but still liveable.
There is also a more spacious and wintery side to the band; whereas Let Go paid homage to Dylan with “Blonde On Blonde,” The Weight offers tribute to Neil Young with “Comes a Time.” Both songs are more appropriate for rainy day drives than cocktail parties, and that atmosphere suits Caws and Nada Surf almost as well as the polite up-tempo rockers. Every so often, though, they get a little too lightweight, as on the ooh-oohing “All is a Game.” Even the misfires are awfully pretty, though, and the several songs that really hit the mark are euphoric -- once again. - Adam McKibbin, The Red Alert
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