Nada Surf employs a musical frequency about it that is engaging. As soon as the drums pick up the beat in the intro to each song, the verses lift off into a wonderful anthem of possibilities. It seems that every song is a different variation of the same concept in the band’s new The Stars Are Indifferent to Astronomy, where the sound blossoms out of its root of alternative rock along both intimate and collections of words.
“Clear Eye Clouded Mind,” for example, begins the album softly and easily, with the guitar strumming in tandem with a tambourine and a light vocal. It’s gentle and sweet. Wait until the middle of the album, though, where “The Moon Is Calling” does the same but with more harsh vocals and rough guitar work.
It’s been two years since we last heard from them and four since we heard something original. Previous to 2010’s If I Had a Hi-Fi (an entire compilation of covers), Lucky was released in 2008. Its harder rock melodies were received very well, with the sounds still resonating today—enough to have fans itching for more.
Essentially, The Stars Are Indifferent to Astronomy came at a good time.
“Waiting for Something” brings together the whole Nada Surf experience at song No. 2. It explores a charging guitar rhythm while its harmonies take control of the song. The song is conducted by its own themes, and it’s exciting to hear such an audible story played out for the audience to hear. Nothing has to be pieced together; it’s all in plain sight.
While one listener may label Nada Surf’s latest record as boring, it’s better described as conceptually simplistic. There might not be a common goal that Nada Surf intended to project upon its listeners, and that’s OK. Not one solitary track stands alone because each contributes to a common sound that stands for the message as a whole. That’s all there is to it when it comes to The Stars Are Indifferent to Astronomy.
What’s nice is that the band works well with clear lyrics and bright tones in its words. Band members are direct and upfront about what they are talking about, easily drawing in the listener to relate as the tracks move from one to the next. Nada Surf stays strictly alternative rock from front to back of their album. Although they don’t color outside the lines at all by mixing it up a bit, there’s no reason to complain.
The only problem is that the sound doesn’t translate to 2012 as well as the band might have hoped. Although this record’s work is well-executed, the concept might be less developed than fans had anticipated.
When musicians have been making music for 20 years, they might find themselves lost with a cause. The cause is music; the direction is hindered by a large body of work and a whole lot of ideas. One would imagine that it would get easier after all that time, but still there is a sense of struggle. The album isn’t perfect, mainly because the band works an angle of their genre that may have passed its time.
“Teenage Dreams” stresses the importance of youth closer to the end of the album, repeating the line, “It’s never too late for teenage dreams.” But they might be posing the wrong question: is it ever too late for middle-aged dreams?
Nada Surf – The Stars Are Indifferent to Astronomy tracklist:
- “Clear Eye Clouded Mind”
- “Waiting for Something”
- “When I Was Young”
- “Jules and Jim”
- “The Moon Is Calling”
- “Teenage Dreams”
- “Looking Through”
- “Let the Fight Do the Fighting”
- “No Snow on the Mountain”
- “The Future”