Review: The Stars Are Indifferent to Astronomy (Nada Surf)

They say, “The seventh time is a just as wonderfully charming as the last three or four or six times.” Or something to that effect.

Nada Surf, the unsung heros of indie pop/rock, have been cranking out magnificently well-crafted tunes since 1992. With charting singles across their now expansive discography (such as “The Inside of Love,” “See These Bones” and “Always Love”), Nada Surf has never failed to satisfy their fans. And who are their fans? Listeners who love melodic, introspective, Sunday-colored tunes.

The band’s seventh release, The Stars Are Indifferent to Astronomy, is a fierce renewal of energy, hope, peace, and understanding. Where Let Go doubted the darkness, Stars embraces the dawning light of hope, and seizes it with youthful vigor.

Take for example: the album’s opening piece, “Clear Eye Clouded Mind.” The racing pitter-patter of the drums instantly pillars the busy sonic atmosphere, which is then shaded in by a dark, woodsy, jade, guitar pigment – As the bass swoops in with deep blues and wild rose tints. Leader Matthew Caws’s distinct voice fuses prominently with the textures — “The stars are indifferent to astronomy / And all that we think we know.” Amongst the “transition,” and “clouded”-ness, Caws is able to preach passionately and profoundly and acknowledge how small we are in even our own universe.

“The Future,” the album’s final track, is a parallel track in a way — Boasting relevant observations (“The future has long lines / The future looks like a screen”) while still admitting human inability of universal control (“I cannot believe / The future’s happening to me”). Wise words to a stellar melody – What more could one ask for?

The album’s eight other tracks are equally as energetic and magical — “Waiting for Something” is instantly memorable and infinitely artistic; “The Moon is Calling” is a cascade of belt-out-loud melodies and a page of discussion-ready lyrics; and “Jules and Jim” is a majestic, acoustic-based opus with plenty of great melodies to go around. There is literally something for everyone here, and the pacing of the track-listing doesn’t hesitate much throughout the record in the meantime.

The arrangements are impeccable, the production is perfectly balanced (mostly raw, with a hint of timeless hi-fi), and the tunes are well-constructed. Should you buy this album? Yes (x10).

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January 2012 Single Spotlight: “Simple Song” (The Shins)

After five incredibly long years, our beloved Shins have returned to us.

The Portland-based indie-pop stars last massaged our aural canals with the unexpectedly experimental 2007 release, Wincing the Night Away. The album spawned several chart hits for the band, including the irresistible “Australia” and the dreamy “Phantom Limb.” Since then, however; the band has lost nearly all of their original members — Save for their fearless leader, James Mercer.

On March 20, Mercer’s latest incarnation of the Shins will release Port of Morrow, album number four in the Shins’ catalogue. The lead single from Port is called “Simple Song,” and is now available on iTunes, as well as in MP3 form with the pre-order of the new album. And it is a glorious, glorious new tune ..

A soft, ambient aura subtly begins to fade into focus… “AaahhhhHHhhhhHhh….” murmurs Mercer in the midst of the faint dawning of sunrise synths. THUMP, THUMP-THUMP, THUMP; THUMP, THUMP-THUMP, THUMP — The commanding bass and forward drums invade the soundscape with a controlled vigor. Scaly strands of guitar accent the takeover, melting over the continued vocal undertones. “Well, this is just a simple song — To say what you’ve done,” assures Mercer. His instrumental army then concurs in unison behind him. “I told you ’bout all those fears, and away they did run. You sure must be strong..” And to the IV chord! Angelic harmonies arise, lifting the soundscape, building a strong force of anticipation and wonder. “And you feel like an ocean being warmed by the sun!” — The percussion erupts into a ferocious stride — The synths launch into little fireworks of pure, joyous energy! — The resolve arrives, with perfect timing! And this, this is just the verse!

If this track is any hint as to what Shins fans are in for this March, the “Best Album of 2012” slot may already be reserved.

Experience it: Stream “Simple Song”