Tuesday, 24 January 2012

Nada Surf - The Stars Are Indifferent To Astronomy

The Stars Are Indifferent To Astronomy is Nada Surf's first album release for four years, and their sixth overall. With a band line-up unchanged some 15 years into their career, it's the latest instalment in a great musical legend that is still in the making. Matthew Caws takes vocals and guitar; Daniel Lorca is on bass; Ira Elliot adds the drums; and this album also sees appearances from guitarist Doug Gillard and multi-skilled instrumentalist Martin Wenk.

If those names are unfamiliar to you, it's not too late - there's plenty enough youth in this album to keep newcomers to the Nada Surf story interested, at least until you can track down copies of the older albums. As Caws explains below, The Stars Are Indifferent To Astronomy is a deliberate attempt to capture the energy of playing a song for the first time, rather than the typical toned-down, pristine performance that usually makes it on to a studio album release.

The overall impact of this approach is pleasing and has few, if any, negative effects. I've picked out my personal highlights below, but you can preview every track on the album using the iTunes widget, and get your own download copy of the contemplative When I Was Young to keep, too.
The Stars Are Indifferent to Astronomy (Deluxe Edition) - Nada Surf
High Points

The contrast between tracks 2 and 3 is both marked and strangely satisfying - the former, an all-out concerted clash of guitar and drums the like of which you'd expect to see in any live show, the latter a much steadier, acoustic-guitar-led contemplative piece that grows as it progresses.

Waiting For Something, the aforementioned second track on The Stars Are Indifferent To Astronomy, is typical guitar-band fayre, but is still a good example of its type. Guitars open the three-and-a-half-minute piece, before the drums take over in terms of keeping the pace and energy high. Catchy riffs are almost a cliche in this genre, but Waiting For Something has them aplenty, and unashamedly so. A singalong chorus completes the essential components, and will no doubt have a few sell-out crowds singing along at Nada Surf gigs of the future.

Its immediate follower, When I Was Young, abruptly alters the pace of the record, but that's no bad thing. As I said above, the contrast between the two is strangely satisfying - and this five-minute tune fits a lot in, setting it apart from the 'sweet and simple' style that a shorter acoustic track may have been forced into. It gets to the business end of things after about 90 seconds with growing muted drums and electric instruments, a swirling musical interlude to the track that carries it into its second phase. The vocals are fairly sedate throughout, conveying a sense of world-weary wisdom that is reflected in the lyrics of When I Was Young.

You can preview When I Was Young - and download it for free to keep - using the SoundCloud preview player below. Enjoy!

The Verdict

The Stars Are Indifferent To Astronomy is more than just a sassy title and a few guitars. Even a relative newcomer to this style of music should be able to tell that Nada Surf have been doing what they do for some time, leading to a sense of maturity and confidence in their music. Six albums in, these guys are keeping things fresh and actually raising the energy levels in their studio releases, as vocalist Matthew Caws explains:

"We've always played faster and a little harder live, but we'd play so carefully in the studio. So, with this album, we made a conscious decision to preserve what it felt like in the practice room, when you play with that new-song energy; just embrace it and not worry whether we're overdoing it, kind of get all the thinking out of the way."

The result is an album that effectively conveys some of the spirit of a live performance. Clearly you're never gonna get all of that energy on to a CD, when it can easily fill a stage, but The Stars Are Indifferent To Astronomy comes a close second place.

Final Score: 78%
The Stars Are Indifferent to Astronomy (Deluxe Edition) - Nada Surf

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