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The Stars Are Indifferent to Astronomy

4.2 out of 5 stars 22 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

''Did you ever, as a kid, want to crawl into the speakers?'' asks Nada Surf singer-guitarist Matthew Caws. ''I did--here was OK, but there was much better.'' And that's pretty much what Nada Surf is all about--Caws, bassist Daniel Lorca, and drummer Ira Elliot are in love with the way rock music can transport you to a new and wonderful place in a beguiling rush of beats, chords, hooks and words. And they do it 10 times over on their brilliant sixth album, The Stars Are Indifferent to Astronomy. Before, Nada Surf albums simply took on the character of the songs that the band came up with at the time. This one was different--there was a plan. ''We've always played faster and a little harder live,'' Caws says, ''but we'd play so carefully in the studio. So with this album, we made a conscious decision to preserve what it felt like in the practice room, when you play with that new-song energy. Just embrace it and not worry whether we're overdoing it, kind of get all the thinking out of the way.'' Chris Shaw came in to record and produce. Shaw, who's made records with the likes of Bob Dylan, Super Furry Animals and Wilco had mixed Nada Surf's indie hit ''Always Love,'' impressing the band with his quick and expert work, not to mention his sense of humor. A few years ago, Caws met guitarist Doug Gillard (Guided by Voices, Death of Samantha) one night at a show, when the latter ambled over to him and offered to ''lay down some James Honeyman-Scott licks'' next time they recorded. Since then Gillard has became such an integral part of the band's sound that they invited him to play on Stars, too. The Stars has a somewhat more optimistic, more outward-looking tone than previous Nada Surf albums. On the yearning ''Waiting for Something,'' Caws sings, ''This new peace/ I can feel it now,'' and that serenity--and not anger--is actually what fueled the music's extra kick. The album springs from the notion of music as an alternative reality, and songs as things you can keep by your side for inspiration and support. Which is what makes Nada Surf a truly beloved band.
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Product Details

  • Audio CD (January 24, 2012)
  • Number of Discs: 1
  • Label: Barsuk
  • ASIN: B006DICWUE
  • Average Customer Review: 4.2 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (22 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #78,646 in Music (See Top 100 in Music)

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Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

Format: Audio CD
As a long-time Nada Surf fan, I would say this is the perfect album at the perfect time.

"Clear Eye Clouded Mind" is a driving opening song that evokes the sound of "Do it Again" or "Concrete Bed," but is more upbeat and fast-paced -- and modern. Here we find the title of the album ("The stars are indifferent to astronomy") in a declaration of the ultimate expression of individuality. This song could be an anthem for anyone swimming against the mainstream. Not full of angst. Full of affirmation.

"Waiting for Something" could be the catchiest "ditty" on the album. "When I was Young" has been available for some time as a free download so many fans have heard it, of course. It is one of the more atmospheric tracks, and a solid entry. This, along with "Let The Fight do the Fighting" are two of the slower, more pensive songs. The latter, by the way, was the track a friend who is not familiar with Nada Surf singled out as a favorite after listening. That brings me to the point that this album is a GREAT gateway into the Nada Surf sound for friends who haven't been around for the duration. Throw it on the car stereo during 38 minute drive, and I guarantee your passengers will ask, "Who is this?!"

"Jules and Jim" and "The Moon is Calling" are both solid, fresh tracks that ensue the middle of the album isn't "filler" (Nada Surf doesn't make "filler"). Like so many other Nada Surf songs, these two will have you emulating Matthew's harmonic vocals (good luck!). "The Moon is Calling" reaches for a few more beautiful, lifting crescendos, while "Jules and Jim" has a paced, tip-toe approach to some of the loftier moments in the song.

"Teenage Dreams" is a marching manifesto of following your dreams. Its power is sublime.
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I am betting that I'm in the same position as many, many other middle aged males who grew up in the 1970s and 1980s listening to rock, hair, acoustic rock, and proto-metal . . . when our favorite artists never let us down at a live show and whose songs linked up to, enveloped, and defined the singular moments in our lives when we felt immortal and triumphant.

And now our jobs, our families, our mortgages, and our car payments have taken over in a way that makes finding new music--especially defining music that can elevate us above the routine--almost impossible. Corporate music is forever trying to bring us back to the contemporary versions of our heros from 30 years ago (do you really want to pay $150 to see the Eagles in 2013? Do you think there's a single track on the newest Aerosmith CD that will change your life?).
Do you have time to find new artists that can wake you up during a morning commute with satellite radio, Pandora or, Rhapsody? I challenge my 18 year old son--a musician who seems to prefer the 60's, 70's, and 80's himself--to bring me new material . . . but it all sounds derivative of the great stuff I grew up with.

One recent morning, NPR rolled "Looking Through" into my speakers. That was it. Somehow a contemporary band had synthesized the 'feel' of so many of the killer pop songs of the early 80's. Couldn't believe I'd never heard of "Nada Surf." Perfect harmonies, shimmery guitars, exceptional production values, song construction combining killer hooks, multiple tempo changes (without ever sounding contrived or clunky), and (best of all) lyrics that never got in the way of a good hook.

I went back to listen to the entire 10 year catalogue.
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Format: Audio CD
On this, their sixth album, Nada Surf don't redefine anything, nor do they go "back to basics," or express any pretension towards being edgy or relevant. What they do is bash out ten good songs that hang together well, that further illustrate their skillful blend of catchy indie-rock with ridiculously un-cynical lyrics. It's definitely a practice-room record, evident from the opening crash of "Clear Eye Clouded Mind," and the generally effortless but decidedly uptempo rush through the rest of the album, through to the dizzying coda of "No Snow on the Mountain." "Waiting for Something" sounds so familiar as to be Nada Surf-by-numbers, but no worries: good tricks bear repeating. The spacey slow burn of "When I was Young," the effervescent janglefest "Jules and Jim," and the earnest "Looking Through" are other highlights. The tempo only slows for "Let the Fight do the Fighting," a shimmering minor-key gem with a nice trumpet solo and cello that feels like a companion to Lucky's "Are You Lightning?". This album won't make them favorites of the Pitchfork set, but it is perhaps their most overall upbeat and accessible record, even though it doesn't quite scale the peaks from earlier efforts. It's just another Nada Surf record: sometimes that's more than enough, and huzzah for that.
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Format: Audio CD
With the addition of veteran guitarist Doug Gillard [Guided By Voices, Cobra Verde], NADA SURF have approximated the thicker, more aggressive live sound they have seldom captured on record. Not that there have been problems with any of their records since the 2nd one [the debut, by their own admission, was not quite the band they have become]...but this one absolutely sizzles. The wonderful, bittersweet wordplay {"I am lost in my mind when you go to sleep"} always manages to capture the exact mood of their heady, melodic pop-rock. This one is most comparable to "Let Go", but maybe even more upbeat. The only drawback [for me] is the relatively short running time of just over 38 minutes...but, like the adage suggests, they definitely left me wanting more. Hats off to Matthew and the boys.
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