This Nada Surf article was written by Macon Oxley, a GIGsoup contributor. Edited by Sam Forsdick.
Formed in 1992, the long-standing Nada Surf are set to release their eighth studio album ‘You Know Who You Are’ on March 4th this year. Explaining the band’s name as “just surfing on nothing”, singer Matthew Caws perfectly sums up the sound of Nada Surf and indeed the sound of this latest offering. Awash with soft, lulling tones, the album delivers some catchy hooks and smooth soundscapes, as well as the occasional more upbeat number.
Characterised by laid-back, almost lazy guitar along with dreamy vocals enriched with glossy harmonies and reverb abound, ‘Cold to See Clear’ provides a great kick-start to the album. An almost ethereal wash of noise for the most part is off-set by the chorus’s more upbeat sensibilities: a driving pulse sitting underneath an exquisitely lush-sounding, ear-grabbing vocal melody with a really triumphant feel to it.
Current single ‘Believe You’re Mine’ introduces a softer, dreamier longing sound. Caws hints at new beginnings with the chorus uttering “one day I’ll love somebody else”, whilst the chords provide an uplift to avoid any overtly dreary sentiments. Explaining the meaning behind this song, the singer states that it’s about finding positivity and hope in our lives which can often “feel a little like foggy drudgery, like numbing repetition”. And one might argue this album is a little guilty of the latter part of that quote: the songs feature a certain unavoidable listlessness and, although their are certain stylistic expectations with a Nada Surf album, the tunes would nevertheless benefit from stronger hooks to lift the listener out of that cosy area.
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Tracks like ‘New Bird’ and title track ‘You Know Who You Are’ offer some reprieve from the familiarity. The former wears much punkier clothes to its softer counterparts hinting at bands such as Hüsker Dü and, another of Bob Mould‘s outlets, Sugar. The title track goes further to challenge the safer sounds. Here the guitars are injected with a little more distortion and an overall more attacking tone, helping to bring out a more memorable melody in the chorus which really elevates the mood of the album.
The latter portion of the album sees a return to the lighter side, which isn’t without its merits, but the predominance of this is a bit overwhelming leading to a wishy-washiness that could turn the listener off.
All in all the album is quite different to 2012’s ‘The Stars Are Indifferent to Astronomy’, although ‘You Know Who You Are’ lacks a lot of the energy of its predecessor. That said, there are some incredibly smooth and satisfying vocal arrangements on this album, with the slower-paced numbers creating a pleasing, warming ambience. For the hooks, however, it is the more upbeat tracks which prevail, bringing some much needed lift to the running order.
‘You Know Who You Are’ is out on 4th March via Barsuk Records.