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Nada Surf - Lucky (Barsuk)

13 April 2008

Lucky is an appropriate album title and theme for Nada Surf to follow up their excellent 2006 album The Weight Is a Gift with. That album’s lyrics were marked by an attempt to look at the positive side of the toughest struggles and darkest days, to get to the conclusion that struggle is a gift, “like I had to see how much I could lift.” Lucky, the band’s fifth album, has a blissed-out sheen over it – courtesy of softer, layered singing and instruments such as piano and acoustic guitar – that makes it resemble the next step forward: contentment.

Melody has always been a strong point for the band. Not easy tunes that your ear grabs, digests, and soon enough throws away, but less immediate, more long-lasting melodies. For that reason, Lucky took me a handful of listens to really get, and that’s as it should be. That more broad, sensitive approach to melodies also plays well into Lucky’s overall mood of optimism, of happiness. The cover of a star-lit night is a nice representation of that feeling of being lucky, of everything going right for once. And the band turns its liner notes over to fans reflecting on why they feel lucky.

Nada Surf’s lyrics on Lucky are still not blind to the problems of life, but they increasingly turn to escape (“Beautiful Beat”) or a relaxed go-with-the-flow attitude (“Whose Authority”). Or, above all, to love. “Beautiful Beat” has the powerfully sung line, “I believe our love can save me / have to believe that it can.”

In a sense Lucky is an album of love songs. But refreshingly these are love songs that aren’t narrow in scope and don’t rely on clichés. There’s hesitation in such songs as “Are You Lightning?”, a realistic sense of concern for the unknown. The album’s closing song, “The Film Did Not Go Round” by GREG PETERSON, perfectly captures the unfathomable side of love, life and music: “I touch these strings / but cannot touch the sound.”