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Pop - Released June 18, 1996 | Elektra Records

The Weezer wannabe tags were certainly understandable when it came to Nada Surf's debut; besides a similarity of intent (a quick, punchy post-grunge pop/rock album with quick, punchy post-grunge pop/rock songs), the production from Ric Ocasek sealed the deal for many. The fact that the band had been going for a while before Weezer's own 1995 splash seems to have been ignored, admittedly. But if Nada Surf never came up with anything that had the influence and lingering impact of Pinkerton, say, High/Low is a nicely frazzled and fun release that actually bears a little similarity at points to prime Cheap Trick. To be sure, it's not an exact comparison (Caws is nowhere near the singer Robin Zander is, for a start), but in terms of spiky intensity shot through with just enough emotional yearning, Caws has the job down well. His guitar playing does the business well enough, while the Lorca/Elliot rhythm section similarly shows its skill track for track. Elsewhere, Ocasek brings his usual sharp ear to the proceedings, while engineer Bruce Calder does a great job of capturing songs that brim with crackling fierceness and a solid, thick punch in equal measures. "The Plan," with its careening verses offset by Caws' deceptively calm but focused delivery, not to mention sudden midsong shifts down several speeds, and the galloping, downright uplifting yet indecisive "Treehouse" are two good reasons not to dismiss the band or album out of hand. One of the more amusing twists on the proto-emo formula comes with "Popular," which rather than taking the point of view of the wounded outsider talks about the high school winners, a mournful yet crunching arrangement and ranted verses providing the contrast to the wryly deadpan chorus. ~ Ned Raggett
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Alternative & Indie - Released November 24, 2009 | Mardev

After scoring the hit "Popular" off its successful 1996 debut record, HIGH/LOW, Nada Surf ran into the hardest of brick walls. While THE PROXIMITY EFFECT built on the fiery, jagged indie power pop of its predecessor, life after a novelty hit can be rough. Their major label, unsure how to market the record, decided not to release it, but also refused to relinquish the masters to the band. After years of dispute, the band could easily have retreated into cynicism and depression, and rumor has it that they did, to a degree. However, they also persevered, and ultimately bought the rights back and self-released the album. It's a good thing they did, as THE PROXIMITY EFFECT is a delectable slice of indie rock. Opening track and single "Hyperspace" boasts the perfect singalong hook and the fevered guitar rock that dominated the first record. However, tracks like "Amateur" and "The Voices" uncover a band lost in thought, reflective, but ultimately upbeat. While the record was overlooked by most of radio and the public, it did catch the ear of college radio and then Barsuk Records, sowing the seeds of the band's unlikely revival.
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Alternative & Indie - Released February 7, 2020 | Barsuk Records

Following their almost terrifyingly sophisticated 2016 live orchestral production Peaceful Ghosts, Nada Surf return with their ninth studio album, 2020's sprawling and spiritually poetic Never Not Together. The album's title is reportedly a paraphrase of something Bon Iver's Justin Vernon said while appearing on the podcast Song Exploder: "...holy math says we're never not together." It appears mid-album on the track "Something I Should Do" during an extended spoken word section from lead singer Matthew Caws. Hearing Caws intensely (if sometimes unnervingly) babbling over a grungy instrumental vamp certainly evokes the group's classic 1996 single "Popular." However, where that song was a witty satire about teen culture, "Something I Should Do" is a stream-of-consciousness rumination about the increasingly fractious state of the world and Caws' desire for a more loving and selfless existence. In doing so, he invokes such wide-ranging ideas as Socrates' dictum that an unexamined life is not worth living, that "empathy is good, lack of empathy is bad," and that the tulip craze of the 17th century has something to teach us about our current state of tribalism (?). It's Byzantine and weird, but it's also one of the most driving and hooky songs on the album, which speaks to the level of experimentation and soul-searching at play here. Tracks like "So Much Love," "Come Get Me," and "Live Learn and Forget," are lyrical anthems rife with an electric, '90s-style power pop shimmer. And the band doesn't rein in their creativity, instead they push their sound outward, weaving in strings, saxophones, and, as on the yearning, Flaming Lips-esque "Looking for You," a boys choir. The rush of good vibes that they hit you with is life-affirming. However, other moments here aren't trying to hook you with a sugary chorus at all. Maybe it's just the sound of a band that's aging, toiling with life's deeper issues both spiritual and social. Either way, it's a weighty confluence of feelings that can catch you off guard. For instance, the song "Mathilda" begins as a brilliant folk confessional about Caws' experiences with bullying during his youth, but eventually transitions into a spiraling, long-form psych-prog meditation on gender issues. There's nothing bad about taking such a big swing; it's definitely better than pulling your punches at this point in your career. As with much of Never Not Together, it's beautifully thoughtful and fantastically ambitious. ~ Matt Collar
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Alternative & Indie - Released March 24, 2004 | Nada Surf

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Alternative & Indie - Released June 12, 2007 | Nada Surf

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Alternative & Indie - Released November 19, 2019 | Barsuk Records

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Alternative & Indie - Released October 8, 2013 | Barsuk Records

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Alternative & Indie - Released March 4, 2016 | Barsuk Records

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Alternative & Indie - Released October 8, 2013 | Barsuk Records

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Alternative & Indie - Released October 8, 2013 | Barsuk Records

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Alternative & Indie - Released October 8, 2013 | Barsuk Records

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Alternative & Indie - Released September 23, 2014 | Barsuk Records

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Alternative & Indie - Released October 28, 2016 | Barsuk Records

Alternative & Indie - Released January 8, 2020 | Barsuk Records

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Alternative & Indie - Released October 8, 2013 | Barsuk Records

Alternative & Indie - Released December 10, 2019 | Barsuk Records

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Alternative & Indie - Released October 19, 2017 | Barsuk Records

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Alternative & Indie - Released February 7, 2014 | Amano Recordings

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Alternative & Indie - Released February 5, 2016 | Barsuk Records

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Alternative & Indie - Released March 27, 2019 | Barsuk Records

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