Back in ’96, yet another post-grunge, indie pop-rock band burst onto the music scene with a heavyweight single. The band was Nada Surf. The track was “Popular.” While its full-length debut High/Low did not garner as much commercial popularity as the single, Nada Surf nonetheless won over much of the indie rock community.
With playfully comedic lyrics and catchy, heavy riffs common of the era, the trio had soon carved out a dedicated fan base. In the aftermath of laying down its sophomore album The Proximity Effect, arguments over the “marketability” of the tracks with then-label Elektra resulted in the record company refusing to release the album stateside and dropping the band while on tour. Although legal battles to secure the rights to The Proximity Effect proved successful, the band followed the album’s release with a multi-year hiatus.
Three years into this prolonged vacation from the industry, the band took to the studio and laid the groundwork for an entirely revamped sound and style. A far cry from the raw, elemental, indie feel of its major label releases, 2002’s Let Go and 2005’s The Weight Is A Gift established Nada Surf “2.0” as an entirely different beast. While no doubt equally as rewarding as the early material, the “new” Nada Surf nonetheless served a different purpose. Without entirely losing its rocking roots, the band’s power pop came to rely less on silly charm and more on the developed intentions of maturing artists.
Continuing in this evolutionary progression, the band’s fifth LP Lucky marks an even further departure from its era-appropriate musical stylings as industry newbies. Much like in the album’s predecessors, the band embraces popster songwriting and mainstream appeal, without receding into generic boredom. A strong undercurrent of Lucky is the infusion of emotion, both lyrically and musically. Particularly heart-wrenching and well-crafted are “See These Bones” and “The Film Did Not Go ’Round.” Balanced by instantly memorable, quicker cuts like “Whose Authority,” “I Like What You Say,” and “From Now On,” the album certainly proves to be a well-rounded—albeit more mellow—affair. A compelling achievement, Lucky serves as a strong testament to yet more artistic progress by a band ripening with age.