Donate Now to Support KDHX

Listen Live
Friday, 27 January 2012 09:56

Album review: Nada Surf's return to adolescence on 'The Stars Are Indifferent to Astronomy'

Album review: Nada Surf's return to adolescence on 'The Stars Are Indifferent to Astronomy'
Written by Erin Frank
Rate this item
(1 Vote)

Nada Surf
"The Stars Are Indifferent to Astronomy"
Barsuk

Ever the ones to ignore music industry convention, Nada Surf is obviously moving in a different direction with "The Stars Are Indifferent to Astronomy."

The album, released by Barsuk/City Slang on January 24, is a snappier, more buoyant effort than the softer, ardent sound that has defined much of the better-known indie corners (Death Cab for Cutie, the Shins, Bon Iver) for the past several years. It's certainly more upbeat than 2003's earnest "Let Go" or 2005's mercurial "The Weight Is a Gift," and in a way, this makes the album more reminiscent of the band's angsty-yet-unpretentious 1996 breakout hit, "Popular."

The tempo of "The Stars Are Indifferent to Astronomy" rarely relents, though, which lends the feeling of forced amiability. I'm not asking for the perpetual nubbly sweater-wearing whisper of a Death Cab For Cutie record, but a little disaffection wouldn't kill anyone. Although I kept waiting for a little crunch, itch, or well-deserved lyrical gripe, "The Stars Are Indifferent to Astronomy" is actually pretty innocuous, the crisp guitars and gentle harmonizing in songs like "Waiting For Something," "Jules and Jim" and "Looking Through" sounding less like a cohesive release and more like a quietly-marketed Goo Goo Dolls/Gin Blossoms/Third Eye Blind project.

The general lyrical theme suggests a nostalgia for carefree, promise-rich youth. Sometimes this is more subtle, as with the repeating phrase "recursive tulips" in "The Moon Is Calling," and sometimes so obvious it's silly, as in "Teenage Dreams" or the line "I can't believe the future's happening to me" in "The Future."

Combined with guitarist and lead vocalist Matthew Caws' forever-young falsetto, it all suggests the juvenile hopefulness of youth but none of the anxiety. I don't mean to imply that all good music is borne out of misery, but one of Nada Surf's songwriting gifts has been an acerbic wit delivered with unapologetic directness. I don't know if the intention was to return to a simpler way to write songs, but the band is cleverer than this, and has been gutsier in the past.

This is not to say there are no bright points. There are a few instrumental saving graces on this album: the mournful trumpet in the otherwise ordinary breakup song "Let the Fight Do the Fighting," for instance, or the shimmery strings in "When I Was Young." The constructed distortion of "Clear Eye Clouded Mind" leads off the album, and the other full song standout, "No Snow On the Mountain," brings a tinge of the disaffection I so badly wanted. Unfortunately, this Hail Mary of a song comes too late and after too much passionless, textureless soft rock.

The name Nada Surf refers to an existential state of nothingness, or perhaps a Buddhist state of non-attachment. It's about living in a sea of quiet static, I guess, and although fitting to play in the background somewhere, unfortunately, quiet static is how the album sounds. After a nearly 20-year-long career, "The Stars Are Indifferent To Astronomy" is less about stars and more about indifference.

When I Was Young by Barsuk Records

Upcoming Concerts

Sponsor Message

Become a Sponsor

Find KDHX Online

KDHX on Instagram
KDHX on YouTube
KDHX on SoundCloud
KDHX on Facebook
KDHX on Twitter
KDHX on flickr

Local Artist Spotlight


Karate Bikini - A Simpler Sugar

Wed November 26
Karate Bikini is an eight piece ensemble who's members hail from St. Louis and the metro area. They are a large band with a large sound. Their latest album A Simpler Sugar is full of upbeat pop songs,…

Jah Orah and KD Assassin

Wed November 19

88.1 KDHX Shows

m-crowd.jpg

KDHX Recommends

November
Friday
28

Rock 'n Roll Craft Show

Luminary Center for the Arts Rock n Roll Craft Show is an alternative art, craft and music event showcasing unique items handcrafted from new and recycled materials. rocknrollcraftshow.com


November
Sunday
30

December
Friday
05

First Fridays

The Contemporary Art Museum hosts First Firdays, an evening of art, music and culture held on the first Friday of each month. The event will feature DJ's, staff led tours, a Fundred Dollar Drawing Workshop and much more.


Get Answers!

If you have questions or need to contact KDHX, visit our answers portal at answers.kdhx.org.

Online Users

3 users and 10330 guests online
Sign in with Facebook

SYSTEM: S5 Box

Login/My Account

Sign in with Facebook