Nada Surf return with The Stars Are Indifferent To Astronomy, their first album of original material in almost exactly four years and it doesn’t disappoint. The album sticks to the band’s tried and tested formula of mostly upbeat, poppy and aurally inoffensive tunes that has seen the New York 3-piece gain respect in indie circles for the majority of the past two decades.
Most listeners would assume that Matthew Caws’ prominent and clear-as-day vocals must make him self-conscious as a lyricist and so it is probably a good thing that the man is rather handy with a pen and a guitar in his hands. This is exemplified in the third track on the album, ‘When I Was Young’, with starts off reminding of ‘Blizzard of ‘77’ from 2002’s Let Go and crescendos into a wisdomic ode to growing up centring around the simple and effective (yet slightly ‘up’-heavy) refrain of “When I was young I didn’t know if I was better off asleep or up/Now I’ve grown up, I wonder what was that world I was dreaming up”. Fans of the band must be in no doubt that it is due, amongst other things, to Caws’ lyrical cadence that Nada Surf continue to enjoy success in indie rock.
‘No Snow On The Mountain’, the penultimate track, is a song seemingly about a lazy (modern) Ancient Mariner (“there’s no snow on the mountain, there’s no water to drink”) who doesn’t kill anyone or do much movement of any kind (sorry, niched poetical allusion). The song builds up from dominant open hi-hats which hold back the rest of the instrumentation, moves through strained vocal refrains to a powerful denouement of Caws’ possibly justifying the subject of the song’s way of life and stands as evidence that the album does not suffer from a drop in quality at any point.
This is further reinforced by the closing track on the album; the hopefully-aptly titled ‘The Future’ yet again utilises the deliberately strummed and ever-so-slightly distorted guitar feeling a way for the vocals to move along which is heard not just throughout the album but throughout Nada Surf’s releases and these familiar devices almost reach out of the speaker/headphones, put a hand on your shoulder and tell you that everything is going to be ok. ‘The Future’ is a song that leaves you wanting more from Nada Surf and the line “I cannot believe the future’s happening to me” closes the album on a fitting and poignant note, especially when you consider that just over a decade ago each member of the band had to take real day jobs to fund their continuation.
When listening to Nada Surf you always get the feeling that, even after years of making music together, they are really enjoying what they are doing, and they rarely fail to put a smile on your face. The Stars Are Different To Astronomy is a great album if you want to sit back and enjoy fun, happy and yet introspective indie rock. Nada Surf haven’t changed this formula in their songs and hopefully never will.
Released on 23rd January 2012 by City Slang