Review Summary: Spoon’s less consistent little brother hit the jackpot, and have a little fun in the process.
Some bands get all the luck, don’t they? Take, for example, the indie-pop behemoths of the 2000’s, Spoon. With a whopping five studio albums that are, for the most part, both critically and commercially acclaimed, Spoon have been the epitome of consistent as far as the genre goes in recent years. Nada Surf are in the same realm as Spoon. Yes, they can be categorized in the same genre; but more than this simplicity, Spoon and Nada Surf epitomize the type of charm that garners a song placement on former Fox show, The O.C. (and fit perfectly nonetheless). The biggest difference between the two smiley bands is that Spoon has uncanny consistency. At times, i.e. “See These Bones,” “Weightless,” and “Fruit Fly,” Nada Surf has shown talent in the form of writing catchy, exceptional indie-pop that rivals any song Spoon has ever written. Never have they been able to construct an album of this quality that flows, though. In 2010, we arrive at if I had a hi-fi
(not to mention on the heels of yet another Spoon release). Nada Surf’s latest feels palpably self-conscious in nature. Instead of crafting yet another album of home-grown tunes, Nada Surf relies on the already-written songs of their favorites.
After getting past the initial conceptions with such a release, a cover album makes perfect sense. Nada Surf, accompanied by some of their friends (Martin Wenk of Calexico, Doug Gillard of Guided By Voices), have found their calling on if I had a hi-fi
. With some picks out of left-field, if I had a hi-fi
is entertaining and fun throughout, indie-pop that feels lovable and genuine in every respect. No, you may not be able to attribute the songwriting to Nada Surf, but Matthew Caws and company couldn’t sound more content or more confident with what they’ve crafted on if I had a hi-fi.
This aspect is particularly evident, and was definitely missing in past releases- that sense of fun and confidence that’s dripping from every song on if I had a hi-fi.
Be it the Depeche Mode cover, “Enjoy the Silence,” or Nada Surf’s representation of “Love Goes On” from the Australian indie-rockers The Go-Betweens, it all seems perfectly Nada Surf-y. Even during “Bye Bye Beaute (Coralie Clement),” a quintessential Nada Surf vibe is utterly evident. While these songs weren’t carefully chosen to create a sense of flow, I feel, it comes more naturally... from the overarching carefree atmosphere that envelopes if I had a hi-fi.
Nada Surf connect the album not through their song choice (spanning from Kate Nash to Dwight Twilley for God’s sake), but through an overlapping fun atmosphere.
If I had a hi-fi
works much better than you would expect from an indie-pop group that is used to dwelling in the shadows of Spoon and The Shins. Who knows, maybe all that was lacking from the formula was a little bit of fun? If I had a hi-fi
doesn’t quite provide enough oomph
to break the barriers of Nada Surf’s lingering inconsistency, as a cover album certainly has its own set of limitations, but it provides more than ample proof that Nada Surf are more than capable of this. It’s difficult to find a low-point on if I had a hi-fi
, while “Love And Anger (Kate Bush)” and “Agony Of Lafitte (Spoon)” seem to provide the high points in the middle; and this, more than anything, makes me want to deliver a well-deserved pat on the back to Spoon’s less consistent little brother. Along with a congratulations, a little inquiry of “C’mon, what was keeping you from giving us this consistency before
though?!” may be in order.