Nada Surf – The Stars Are Indifferent to Astronomy

Rating: ★★★½ ·

When a band releases their seventh album in well over a decade, you have to wonder, what’s left to prove?  Those of you who’ve followed the endearing path of Nada Surf for the duration will find that The Stars Are Indifferent to Astronomy is indicative of a band still willing to go out and have a blast in the studio; they’re completely willing to play to their strengths and bring you pure pop goodness.

While their last two outings might have come across as a bit subdued, Nada Surf has no intentions of resting on the middling ground of pop, so they bust forth with some of their most powerful tracks in years.  “Clear Eyed Clouded Mind” jumps into your ears, pummeling forward, as much as the band is wont to do.  Still, it’s Mathew Caws’ performance during the chorus that completely wins your heart over, just as he’s always done.  They kick right into “Waiting for Something,” which comes across like a softer, but equally as powerful, Superchunk.  Those guitar lines unleash melody after melody, accentuated by Caws.  Surely, long-time fans, as well as newcomers, will hear the noticeable effort the band has created in putting these tracks together.

The Stars Are Indifferent to Astronomy might have just the perfect balance in song order, kicking things off energetically, then pulling back just a little bit whilst maintaining a whole lot of fluidity. “Jules and Jim” has a chiming guitar intro before Caws goes off into personal reflection lyrically.  Still, the slightest touches of detailing such as the faintest sound of bells and far off vocal accompaniment prove Nada Surf is still focused on providing listeners with a complete sound in each track.  But for all that, this is very much a guitar-oriented record.

“Teenage Dreams” has a nice bit of guitar choppiness correlating to the stomping drums, before the song searches for steadier pastures.  And then “Looking Through” bursts through with a quick paced bit of the purest pop, the likes that only Nada Surf seem to have mastered.  But, as much the guitars play a starring role throughout, The Stars Are Indifferent to Astronomy still holds dear to the tried-and-true principals the band has always stuck with: pop goodness. “Let the Fight Do the Fighting” is a return to the solemnity and melody that always drew me to the group. It sounds more polished than a lot of the other tracks, and the accompaniment of strings only serves to emotionally impact the listener.  Pop music’s not supposed to be hard; it’s supposed to be good–this definitely falls into that category.

Whether you’re a long time fan or a newbie, Nada Surf are one of the few bands that have always seemed to offer up perfect albums.  They write pop songs you can sing to; they give you hooks you can sink your teeth into; and their albums will still be enjoyed years after your favorite current fad is gone.  Such is the power of great songwriting, the sort that’s present for the entirety of The Stars Are Indifferent to Astronomy.

[audio:http://austintownhall.com/wp-content/uploads/2012/01/03-When-I-Was-Young-1.mp3]

Download:Nada Surf – When I Was Young [MP3]

Amazing New Gem from Nada Surf

While a great many of us probably think of Nada Surf as the band that wrote “Popular,” there’s a great history of the band who’ve put out effortless pop albums that never let you down.  Personally, I adore their record Let Go, but I’ve always played out every release they’ve offered.  Now, the band returns with The Stars are Indifferent to Astronomy, which comes out January 24th via Barsuk.  One of the special things about the following track is the way the song quietly erupts after seemingly coming to slow halt, demonstrating that the band still has complete control of their pop genius.  If you’ve ignored the group, do yourself a favor and revisit their catalog, but only after you listen to this great little number.

[audio:http://austintownhall.com/wp-content/uploads/2012/01/03-When-I-Was-Young-1.mp3]

Download: Nada Surf – When I Was Young [MP3]

Eulogies – Tear the Fences Down

Rating: ★★★½ ·

When we last heard from Eulogies on their album Here Anonymous, you could feel the energetic undertones dying to creep out from beneath your speakers.  While their latest piece, Tear the Fences Down definitely holds true in some areas to such a niche, we find the band exploring newer territories, ground that seems a bit more subdued, illustrating the growth process of one of our favorite bands.

The stuttering guitar line on “Out of Style, Out of Touch” might you to believe the band will be following line for line their old stylings, yet Peter Walker’s voice has a little hint of solemnity to it, giving the music a calming effect.  Sure, there’s a bit of a guitar solo off in the distant horizon, but the tinkering piano/keyboard and Walker keep the pace in a more soothing realm. “Intimate Debris” continues the push into a more developed sound, no longer relying on bombast and sharp edged guitars.  Here the band almost takes on a bit of a folk serenade, building a collective group effort to the forefront.

But, as promised, the band still has some definite hooks to toss your way.  “You Hide” has one of the catchiest choruses to hit the Internet this year, and the rest of the song dutifully builds that frivolity throughout, though you might think that there’s definitely a hint of innocence and discovery playing a role here. Even though such moments do exist for the duration of Tear the Fences Down, they are few and far between; this, however, is not necessarily a reason to dismiss the record–far from it!

I’m reminded a great deal of Nada Surf the more I go through the record.  They achieved moderate success, then evolved into something much warmer, creating a canon of music that even the truest of pop fans have to look upon with envy.  Such are the moves of Eulogies, crafting little melodic twists, altering their sound for the better. “Tear the Fences Down” uses acoustic guitar to give the song a more natural feel, and in doing so, it lets Walker take control of every bit of melody crafted inside the practice studio.  Once the drums kick in you have a frolicking piece of genuine pop music, and while it may not knock you on your ass, it gets more ingrained in your soul with each ensuing listen.  When I came across “Separate Heart” my inferences about the band’s progression really hit me; this band is really grown up–they’re really pushing themselves.  Okay, so it might not be the most original thing to include accordion (or whatever it may be), but that chorus is built with such care that eery listener surely will find that it hits a personal note–one of appreciation.

Closing the record is a little bit of acoustic rambling, one certainly indicative of the band’s home state, California.  You probably wouldn’t have guessed such a sunny piece of acoustic pop would have sprouted from the last effort, but sure enough it has; its done so in such a successful manner that listeners might not think of Eulogies the same way.  Perhaps that’s what the band wanted all along; they wanted more from their music and themselves.  Tear the Fences Down, in both title and music, shows the band reforming their sound, and building things up from the ground.  If they do it this well, who knows how far they can go.

[audio:http://austintownhall.com/wp-content/uploads/2010/11/Eulogies-YouHide.mp3]

Download: Eulogies – You Hide [MP3]

Here We Go Magic – Pigeons

Rating: ★★★½ ·

When we first heard from Here We Go Magic on their self-titled album, the work was largely the product of Luke Temple.  On Pigeons, we find Luke extending the olive branch to his bandmates, collaborating on the collection of tunes, which leads to a more complete sound for the group, and one that shows a great deal of cohesiveness.

A crazy little bass line opens up the album, coated by the usual layering of the rest of the group on “Hibernation.”  More construction seems to be the biggest difference here, as details are fleshed out in every bit of space.  Temple’s vocals are really soothing, almost warm, which makes the vocal more of just another way to fill out the sound.  It all leads into one of the band’s best songs to date, “Collector.”  Temple’s vocal delivery when he says “I got a mild fascination” just gets me every time, and its not even the best vocal performance of his on the song.  Furious pacing by guitars and drums alike barely give you time to breathe, and before you know it you’re blasting on towards the end.

Some weird moments pop up throughout Pigeons, and perhaps this is just a personal thing.  By weird I mean there are some odd influences, that may not be conscious ones at all.  “Casual” really has a Stereolab feel to it, using electronic beats to build gentle melodies, with very soft vocals barely sitting atop the mix. “Bottom Feeder” is one of those sneaky tracks that doesn’t seem to fit quite into the entire album, although the Nada Surf feel might not be too far fetched for these NYC kids.  It’s a gem of a pop song, though it doesn’t fit the mold of the rest of the songs, but just focus on the fact that its a killer track.  Let’s not forget the quirky “Old World United,” which just feels good to listen to it.  It’s got a throbbing bass line and key use of electronic touches allows for maximum amounts of listening pleasure.

While the latter half of the record seems to largely be constructed of more jamming pieces, such as the fast paced “Moon,” the variance softer numbers are some of the more rewarding upon repeated listens. “F.F.A.P.” moves really slowly, and its one of the few songs of the set where Here We Go Magic seems to let Temple’s voice shine through, which it should do more often.  His voice holds this track in place while the music is secondary, used more as filler.   But, while those bright moments have all shown greatly during Pigeons, the album end sort of anticlimactically.  Two of the shortest songs close it out, and they seem more likely to be moments of tinkering and studio downtime than well thought out tracks one would include on a record.  It’s the one disappointing thing about the entire group of songs because up until this point in the album, it appeared that the group was really hitting their stride.  Alas, those weak moments aside, you’ll find growth and depth in the sound of Here We Go Magic, and no one can complain with artistic progress.

[audio:http://austintownhall.com/wp-content/uploads/2010/03/02-Collector-1.mp3]

Download: Here We Go Magic – Collector [MP3]

Rogue Wave – Permalight

Rating: ★½ · · ·

Let’s face it, Zach Rogue hasn’t had it easy.  He was forced into rock n’ roll because of the dot-com bust, and his band lost a former member/friend in a fire, not to mention his own health issues. Through it all, Zach has tried to put a light on his life with Rogue Wave.  Now comes the release of their fourth album, Permalight.

“Solitary Gun” begins the album on the right foot.  It features Zach’s cool California vocals with a twangy guitar.  Percussion here correlates to the song itself, brightening the aesthetic quality of the tune, despite the underlying dark theme. But, this is about as good as it will get.

“Good Morning” has Zach channeling a bit of Passion Pit as he uses synthesized beats to build the hook within the song.  Somehow, the chorus sounds a lot like Postal Service (or Owl City if you like).  It comes across really generic and uninspired, especially the bouncing beat that goes with the chorus.   Such a song is shocking considering the depth in all the songs on Asleep at Heaven’s Gate.  All that depth has clearly gone out the window; disappointing.

A lot of Permalight seems really mundane, if not a bit forced.  “Stars and Stripes” features more of that out of place electronic palette. But, what hits you the most is the redundancy of the lyrics; you here the words stars and stripes too much to recollect any of the other banal details in the song.  Similar issues plague the lyrics on “Fear Itself;” you can only repeat lyrics so many times before they lose all importance.

Don’t forget, however, that Rogue Wave has always been capable of crafting really good pop moments.  “Right With You” seems like something Nada Surf would have done long ago, or maybe Ok Go.  “I’ll Never Leave You” is also standing near the end of the album, but it’s one of the few tunes that really tugs at your heart.  It’s a mostly acoustic number with some sort of shaker echoing in the background while Zach’s vocals carry the whole of the song. Much can be said, too, of “All That Remains.”  It ends the album on a high note, at least as far as quality goes.

Looking back on Permalight as a whole, you can’t help but feel really let down.  There are some moments here, like “I’ll Never Leave You” that show the abilities of Zach and his band, but you get the feeling throughout that the album is somehow left unfinished.  It’s as if the label needed something, and this was all there was, which perhaps explains the foray into electronic backing during certain moments.  Despite a few enjoyable moments, the album struggles to rise high like the previous Rogue Wave records.

FT50: Albums of the ’00s

0828top5coverWhat?   You still listen to THAT album?  That record is so 2004!  Well, that’s okay, because we really like that one too, which is why we decided to come up with a list of our favorite albums of the last decade (2000-2009).  Sure, these might not be YOUR favorite records, or the most critically acclaimed, but we sat down and really thought out every record from the past ten years that we keep coming back to in our collections.  You’re likely to disagree with some of these, and we won’t tell you we’re absolutely right we just know that these happen to be OUR favorites.  If you think we totally blew it here, feel free to tell us so, but be nice, as our egos are kind of fragile.  Follow the jump for more.

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Nada Surf @ Emo’s (11/22)

Nada Surf will be bringing their brand of pop-rock to Emo’s on Saturday evening.  Buy your tickets now for the low low price of $15.  Catch a preview of the show with “See These Bones” from the band’s latest effort Lucky.  In other Nada Surf news, the guys have a new limited edition vinyl box set coming out next week.  The price may sound high at $100 but you get all 5 Nada Surf LPS, digital downloads of each and a few other random goodies.  Sound good?  Pre-order your copy now.

[audio:http://austintownhall.com/wp-content/uploads/2008/11/nadasurf_seethesebones.mp3]

Download: Nada Surf – See These Bones [MP3]

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