Nada Surf - Lucky
Review by Jack Foley
NADA Surf release their fifth album Lucky and it’s truly a musical blessing for anyone lucky enough to hear it!
The record is crammed with songs of restlessness, longing and the elusiveness of love. Yet, in its inimitable way, the band beautifully counterbalances its signature lyrical wistfulness with its singular musical buoyancy.
Hence, Intimate tunes become we’re-all-in-this-together anthems, thanks to the chiming guitars, propulsive beat and the ever-present yearning in lead singer Matthew Caws’ voice.
The melodies, in particular, are worth swooning for, whether the album is delving into the Beach Boys classics of yesteryear or, more recently, the musical ability of bands like Fountains of Wayne.
The best thing about Lucky, however, is that there’s not a bad song on it. Co-produced by the band and John Goodmanson (Death Cab For Cutie and Blonde Redhead), the album was recorded in Seattle at Robert Lang Studios where artists like Nirvana, Death Cab for Cutie, Foo Fighters and Dave Matthews, among many others have worked in the past.
It also boasts some great guest appearances from the likes of Death Cab’s Ben Gibbard, Ed Harcourt, John Roderick of the Long Winters, and guitarist Phil Wanderscher of Jesse Sykes & the Sweet Hereafter.
And it opens with a flourish with See Those Bones, a record dripping with strangely melancholy (and yet completely beautiful) guitar riffs and a vocal from Caws that’s certainly reminiscent of the laidback Death Cab For Cutie style. By the time the track gathers pace at the midway point, it has you completely hooked.
Whose Authority begins with a crashing drum and guitar workout, before unfolding into the type of joyous anthem the Fountains of Wayne would be proud to call their own, while a track like Beautiful Beat – with its wondrous guitars and enchanting piano chords – is tailor-made for warm summer sunshine days (and is effortlessly evocative of the Califonia sunshine vibe).
The hits keep on coming. Here Goes Something hints at Simon & Garfunkel style folk with a little Beatles psychedelia thrown in, Weightless is a melody-strewn rock romp, Are You Lightning drops the tempo to offer a quieter moment of reflection, and I Like What You Say is instantly catchy and beautifully delivered.
Ice On The Wing, meanwhile, boasts some more cracking guitar work and then ends with a completely surprising and utterly cheeky trumpet fanfare, as though playing out a carnival. It’s a moment to catch you off-guard that underlines Nada Surf’s understated brilliance.
Penultimate track The Fox kicks off with some notable guitar work before slow-building its way into another memorable offering (complete with beguiling vocals), and The Film Did Not Go Round brings the album to a close in utterly exemplary fashion by stripping things back to a lone guitar strum and some tender vocals that are achingly innocent. The boy-girl vocal trade off is as enchanting as the vocals are heartfelt and heartbreaking (“the thought of you just makes me want to cry”).
Lucky is already one of my favourite albums of the year – don’t bet against it becoming one of yours too!
Download picks: See These Bones, Beautiful Beat, Here Goes Something, I Like What You Say, Ice On The Wing, The Film Did Not Go Round
- Whose Authority [acoustic]
- I Like What You Say [acoustic]
- I Wanna Take You Home
- Everyone’s On Tour