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If I Had A Hi-fi

4.7 out of 5 stars 9 customer reviews

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if i had a hi-fi is a covers album full of inspired, unexpected choices: from avant-pop Kate Bush to underground power-pop classicist Dwight Twilley. There are some intriguingly obscure numbers, like Spanish band Mercromina's "Evolution" and under-documented Bill Fox's "Electrocution". It also features tracks by The Go-Betweens, Arthur Russell, Spoon, and more. This record will be released on June 8th, but the band is making copies available early for Record Store Day.

Review

It was a great excuse to have friends of ours sit in on something without having to wait another two years. --Matthew Caws, lead singer and guitarist
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Product Details

  • Audio CD (June 8, 2010)
  • Original Release Date: April 1, 2016
  • Number of Discs: 1
  • Label: Mardev
  • ASIN: B003AO3CIK
  • Average Customer Review: 4.7 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (9 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #183,343 in Music (See Top 100 in Music)

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Format: Audio CD
I've had a few months to marinate on this album thanks to the band's generous contribution to National Record Store Day. Even though I've been a passionate advocate for Nada Surf through every album since High/Low, I bought this one with a bit of hesitation. Anytime an artist does a covers album, I wonder if it will be destined for The Onion's annual list of least essential albums - records not good or bad, but ones that simply had no reason to exist. Covers are fine for b-sides, pleasant surprises during radio sessions and concerts; but anytime they show up on a proper album, let alone an entire album (cough, Peter Gabriel), I can only think the artist has a.) run out of steam; b.) a record contract to fulfill; c.) become a cover band like Me First & The Gimme Gimmes. With "If I Had a Hi-Fi" - none of the above applies. Since I am familiar with most of the covered artists, but not the songs, the album actually works as a proper Nada Surf album, perhaps their most melodic, energetic and urgent since their first two (High/Low and the tragically overlooked masterpiece The Proximity Effect).

The two songs of which I am most aware, "Enjoy the Silence" and "Love and Anger," are the hardest for me to digest because the originals are signature pieces from Depeche Mode and Kate Bush respectively. The lush, brooking darkness of the former and the frantic, fluttering bitter euphoria of the latter are missing, these tracks have the sharp corners sanded down - but they still jangle along and are a pleasant listen. It's the rest of the tracks where Nada Surf really finds its mojo and kicks into high gear.
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Format: Audio CD
Like a few fans out there, I've had "If I had a Hi-Fi" since National Record Store day and have been talking it up to friends for a couple of weeks. Granted, a covers album is usually a kiss-of-death for most bands, but this is one of the rare exceptions to the rule. Nada-Surf takes on a batch of their favorites and breaks out the Rickenbackers. Frankly, this is Jangle-pop nirvana. It's "Garage Days" for power-poppers. It's really that good.

Part of the reason I dig this so much is that many of the songs are relatively obscure. Dwight Twilley is one of my all-time power-pop gurus, and NS goes for his "You Were So Warm." Bill Fox is one of those obscure guys that only alt-freaks would know about, and they unearth one of his songs for the opening track. "Electrocution" is given such a work-over that is sounds like a great lost Roger McGuinn song. Add a Spanish band's song "Evolucion" that absolutely haunts, and you've already scored three bulls-eyes.

Then there's the not-so-obscure. The primary airplay is going to Depeche Mode's "Enjoy The Silence," which sounds like REM wrote it as opposed to manic depressive British Synth Dudes. Nada Surf turns the song completely on its head, which is no minor feat. Kate Bush's "Love and Anger" loses none of it's empathic qualities, also not an easy task, given her unique qualities. And finally, there's the revved up cover of The Moody Blues' "Question," which answers the question of what a jam session between The Moodies and The Byrds might have sounded like.

That's probably my favorite track on "If I Had a Hi-fi," followed closely by the Twilley cover. There's plenty of other songs here, but suffice to say that Nada Surf has joined The Editors as one of my favorite albums for 2010.
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Format: Vinyl
I've listened to this album a lot since it's release a few years ago, but picked it up here on vinyl. I'm not usually a fan of cover albums, but Nada Surf does a great job with these (mostly obscure) songs and definitely makes them their own. Their cover of Depeche Mode's "Enjoy the Silence" is a perfect example of how they make a cover song their own, rather than mimicking it. "Bright Side" and "Electrocution" are probably my other fav tracks on this album, but they are all indeed great!
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Format: MP3 Music Verified Purchase
I was introduced to Nada Surf on the One Tree Hill album and decided to check out thier other stuff. I love this album, it didn't disappoint thats for sure. It is also one I don't mind my 10 yr old listening to.
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Format: Audio CD
The first album I heard of Nada Surf was The Weight Is A Gift. I was immediately drawn to the combination of jangly guitar and high pitched vocals that flowed so smoothly. Unlike most people, or at least reviewers, I rarely pay much attention to the lyrics. That often leads me to take a song with a completely different meaning or feeling than what was probably intended. This can almost be comical with a group like, say, Cowboy Junkies. On the plus side I get to avoid being bored with lyrics depicting emotions and or realizations of life that maybe I dealt with decades ago. It is the overall "sound" that moves me and the vocals are simply part of that.

In the last 6 months I have picked up the other albums from the group including this one. Another reviewer here comments to how they sometimes sound like the Byrds. I noticed that within the first few cuts myself. There is also a touch of America in the sound of the vocals. Outside of the Moody Blues tune I have never heard any of the originals that are covered here. That actually lets me take the album as something entirely new and yet a continuation of an overall sound by a group I like more and more.
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