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Archive for the ‘Nada Surf’ Category

[POSTPONED: May 28, 2020] Nada Surf / S.G. Goodman [moved to April 18, 2021]

indexI saw Nada Surf a few months ago and  the show was great.  They are such a tight band and their songs are super catchy. Matthew Caws is a wonderful front man (and super nice guy).

Because I had just seen them I wasn’t sure if I wanted to go.  Well, I wanted to go, but I didn’t know if I should since I was going to so many other shows.  But since it was so close, I wanted to take S. to experience the joy.

I don’t know if this is the kind of thing that would get rescheduled, but I sure hope so.

S.G. Goodman is a singer-songwriter from Western Kentucky known for her rootsy sound and raw, honest lyricism. Her debut album came out in March.

I’ve listened to “The Way I Talk” and wow, what a cool song.  A simple repetitive beat with Goodman’s raw voice.  She doesn’t sing like a country singer (so that’s good), she tells a song story that ends with some amazing guitar feedback.  I’d love to see her live.

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[ATTENDED: January 30, 2020] Nada Surf

I’ve been a fan of Nada Surf for a really long time.  I was so excited to see them live two years ago (on the 20th anniversary tour for Let Go).  That was two sets and a ton of music.

I was pretty excited that t hey were coming back to World Cafe Live to tour for their soon to be released album.

I arrived just in time for the opening act and was really surprised at how empty the venue was (last time it was packed to the rafters).  By the time Nada Surf came on, though, it was pretty crowded, so that’s good.  Nevertheless I was right up front.  So close that I could read Matthew’s water bottle.

I assumed that the last show was so comprehensive (all of Let Go, plus a full set of 20 songs) that there wouldn’t be a lot of difference in this show.  And I didn’t mind at all, because there’s hardly a dud in their entire musical output).

Amazingly they played NINE new songs at this show (including three brand new ones).  And as I was comparing the setlists, I couldn’t believe some of the songs they didn’t play last time–and that show was so good I didn’t even miss these terrific songs.  Well done, Nada Surf! (more…)

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[ATTENDED: January 30, 2020] Aaron Lee Tasjan

I knew Aaron Lee Tasjan from a Tiny Desk Concert that I really enjoyed.  He was playing songs from his then new album Karma for Cheap which had a great psychedelic kind of sound to it.  I thought that he and his band played really well together and I was looking forward to seeing them.

So I was a little bummed to find out that he was playing solo (and acoustic!).

But it turns out that Tasjan is a great songwriter and while I definitely preferred the sound he got on the album, I enjoyed listening to his lyrics as he played acoustic guitar. (more…)

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[ATTENDED: March 9, 2018] Nada Surf

Nada Surf has been on my bands-to-see-live list for some time.   Matthew Caws the lead singer and primary songwriter had played a solo gig nearby recently, but I wanted to see the whole band.  So I was really excited to see that they were going to play An Evening, which always means “no opener.”  I love a good opening band, but if I can see twice as much of a headliner, well, that’s even better!

And this was going to be a celebration of their album Let Go.  This was the fifteenth anniversary of this, their third album, and it was going to be played in its entirety.  Which is  great since pretty much the whole album is terrific.

Nada Surf has a fascinating history.  They were huge with their sorta-novelty hit “Popular.”  When they put out their second album, The Proximity Effect, the label thought there were no hits, so the band was dropped.  The guys went to France (Matthew Caws and bassist Daniel Lorca initially met at The Lycée Français de New York (The French High School of New York) a private, independent bilingual French school and also spent time in Belgium and France as kids).  The album was released and well received.  They eventually self-released it back home.

Then they released Let Go in Europe and the U.S. (with different track listings).  Caws thanked Barsuk for releasing the album basically sight-unseen back in 2002.

And the entire first set was the album front to back. (more…)

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SOUNDTRACK: NADA SURF-Peaceful Ghosts (2016).

Six years after the release of the Brussels live album (and 13 years after recording it!), Nada Surf released another live album.  This one featuring an orchestra.  Apparently Austrian radio station FM4 offered the band the yearly slot they give to a rock outfit to be backed by an orchestra for a whole concert. A similar session with Radio Eins in Berlin enabled the band to extend the collaboration with the Babelsberg Film Orchestra over two shows.  It is the show with Babelsberg on June 21 that was recorded.

I have often wondered what makes a band play with an orchestra.  So it’s interesting to learn that they were invited. What made the orchestra choose them is something else entirely.  Caws says that they were recording their new album when they got the call for this, so they sent over their friend (and occasional touring member) Martin Wenk (of Calexico) to supervise the project with composer Max Knuth.

So perhaps because the band didn’t participate entirely, or maybe just because that’s what they wanted to do, this recording is not a rework of the songs. Rather, it’s Nada Surf with an orchestral backing.  But Caws’ songs and voice are quite suited to this treatment.  They avoid their heavier songs and stay with primarily their mid-tempo stuff (wisely avoiding an orchestral version of “Popular”).  This gives the performance a bit of a samey quality, but each song sounds lovely.  Sometimes the strings are just there to accentuate the songs, but other times they really add power to the emotions.  They had recently added former Guided By Voices guitarist Doug Gillard to the lineup (“we hope to never be a trio again”) but despite his occasional solos, the flourishes comes from horns and strings more than guitars.

The album almost feels like a Storytellers session with Matthew Caws telling origins stories before each song.  Some of the stories are really quite fascinating.  Some just give some nice insights into the songs.  My favorite was the one before “Blizzard of ’77.”

It’s expensive to rehearse in New York.  No one has a garage and there are no basements, so they rehearsed in a space that cost $20/hr.  When they were in high school they could only afford two times a week.  So they played loud and fast to get everything out.  Later, they were touring in Amsterdam sharing a hotel room with Daniel.  He didn’t want to wake up Daniel so he went into the bathroom to write and that’s how their first quiet song came out. (it’s fascinating how short it is too).

The somewhat more unlikely story is for “Rushing” in which he says that a relationship can sometimes make you forget your own body dysmorphia:  “You come rushing at me and I forget my body.”

The best use of the orchestra is on the awesome minor key song “The Fox.”  He opens, “After all this joy, we’ll go somewhere dark.  American television.  Cable news.  FOX TV.  A fox is a clever animal–good at manipulating other animals.”  This is one of my favorite Nada Surf song anyhow (even before I knew what it was about), the bass line is just sublime.  And the dramatic buildup towards the end with the horns and flutes is really great.

There’s some nice orchestral hits and swells on “Believe You’re Mine” and “Beautiful Beat” has a pretty guitar melody that is nicely appointed to strings.  “Out of the Dark opens with the orchestra which is a nice change and the xylophone sounds quite pretty as well.

Before “80 Windows” he explains about visiting a friend in Sweden and how in the summer it is warm and dreamy, but in winter, he slept until 2 because of jetlag, and the day was over.  So he counted windows in the apartment across the street.  Knowing that really makes the lyrics more effective, I can really picture it.  There’s some great use of orchestra at the end of this song as well.

Between this album and the previous live album they repeat three songs (marked with a * below).  This is not an essential release, and I hope they rock a bit more when I see them in March.  But it’s a nice overall experience of the band.

Comes A Time                  The Fox                              Out Of The Dark
Believe You’re Mine        Blonde On Blonde*     When I Was Young
Beautiful Beat                  80 Windows                                       Animal
Blizzard of ’77*                 Inside Of Love*           Are You Lightning?
Rushing

[READ: March 25, 2016] “The Limner”

I really enjoyed the way this story unfolded.  I was especially intrigued at the details of the painter’s disability and how we didn’t learn of it until several pages in.

So this story is about a painter, Wadsworth.  I’m not exactly certain when this is set, but suffice it to say it is set when a portrait was the only way of guaranteeing your image would live n in posterity).  Wadsworth is painting a man, Mr. Tuttle. Tuttle is quite cheap (he is arguing about the fee–$12).

Wadsworth says that he has written Tuttle’s comments in a book–the book that every patron writes in–and that Tuttles’ comments are just as obvious and repetitive as all the previous patrons were.

Turns out that Wadsworth is an itinerant painter.  He moves into a town, puts an ad in the paper and if he has no customers in 5 days he moves on.  Some patrons give him lodging–some are even more generous. (more…)

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SOUNDTRACK: NADA SURF-Live in Brussels (2010).

This album was recorded while Nada Surf was touring their Let Go album.  This particular show was recorded at the AB Club in Brussels 31st March 2003.

This is a great live recording–the band Matthew Caws on guitar/vocals, Daniel Lorca on bass and Ira Elliot on drums–sounds terrific and the recording quality is excellent.  They added a keyboard for “Blonde and Blonde” but otherwise it’s just the trio.

They play nine songs from Let Go (not in sequence).  Those are mixed with four from Proximity Effect and three (including “Popular”) from their debut.

There’s some mild distortion on the guitars but the bass and drums are very clean.  Caws’ voice might be a tad loud in the mix, but since his voice sounds great, it’s fine.  They don’t deviate too much from the recorded versions–a few drums fills here and there near the ends of songs.

The most notable differences are on the songs from high/low which sounded a bit different from their “newer” sound.  “Stalemate, for instance, is far more up tempo, but less heavy.  The biggest surprise comes during this song when they seamlessly shift into a verse and chorus of (a very mellow) “Love Will Tear Us Apart.”

*from Let Go, **from Proximity Effect % from high/low

*”Blizzard of ’77”       *”Killian’s Red”              **”Bacardi”
*”Treading Water”     *”Hi-Speed Soul”         %”Stalemate”
%”Icebox”                   *”Happy Kid”               **”Robot”
**”Amateur”           *”Fruit Fly”      *”Blonde on Blonde”
*”Inside of Love”         **”80 Windows”         %”Popular”
.                                                                  *”The Way You
Wear Your Head”

Caws speaks rather good French (I guess) and does all of his announcements in French.  I enjoyed that before “Popular” he says the song is “tres, tres, tres sarcastique.”  I’m only mildly surprised they didn’t play “Là Pour Ça.”

I was amused at how “rushed” or “weird” “Popular” sounded.  Then I saw in the liner notes (the advantage to mp3s) that Caws says, during a previous performance in Brussels, “on a lark, we invited whoever wanted to get up onstage and join us at the end of the show.  Apparently, some members of that audience were a this AB show and decided to do it again during ‘Popular.’  We apologize for our slightly abstract performance of that song and the one after it.”

I have tickets to see them in March and I’m really excited about it.

[READ: March 25, 2016] “The Beach Boy”

I found this story to be very engaging and somewhat surprising.

It begins with friends meeting for dinner.  They are in Manhattan and there are three couples.  One of the couples–the protagonists–have just come back from a vacation celebrating their twenty-ninth anniversary.  They were at an (unspecified) island and everyone is asking them all about it.  Was it safe?  Was it worth it?

Marcia says the beaches were beautiful and the sunsets were better than any painting.  But then she speaks of the political situation and the beggars.  And there were the prostitutes–male prostitutes, called Beach Boys.  The women wanted to know about the beach boys–what they looked like and what they said.

Then they talked about the feral monkeys (and the one who stole John’s pen). (more…)

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CV1_TNY_06_23_14Booth.inddSOUNDTRACK: NADA SURF-If I Had a Hi-Fi (2010).

nadaI have enjoyed Nada Surf more with each album.  But for some reason, I never bothered checking out this covers album.  Which is my loss.  Covers albums fall into all different categories–bands that try to ape the original exactly, bands that mess around with the original, and band who take the songs and make them their own.  In this case Nada Surf takes all of these songs and makes them sound just like Nada Surf songs.  Sometimes, they make them sound unlike the original and give them specific Nada Surfisms.

I didn’t know all of the songs on this record.  In fact, I knew very few of them (which is a pretty unusual way to run a  covers record, no?  This falls into the “introduce your fans to songs you love category).

I knew “Enjoy the Silence” (Depeche Mode) which is incredibly different.  Obviously, the original is synthy, but while Nada Surf keep it dark, they add a bit of jangly chords and change the way some of the verses end (the way they do “and forgettable” is so intriguing).  Even the ba bas at the end transform the whole nature of the song.  “Love Goes On!” (The Go-Betweens) is a song I knew a little and Nada Surf sounds an awful lot like the original (but I like the way they make the chorus even bigger).   “Love and Anger” (Kate Bush) is similar to the original but with that Nada Surf twist.  It’s not big and epic and Matthew Caws doesn’t try to hit her notes (he does have a high voice though), but it’s a gorgeous rendition.  “Question” (Moody Blues) is probably the most famous song on the disc.  Nada Surf rocks the song pretty hard.  The pick up the tempo, but slow it down just right for the slow part.  It’s quite faithful, without being in any way proggy.

The rest of the songs I didn’t know.  And some of the bands I’ve never heard of (!).  “Electrocution” (Bill Fox) opens the records and while I don’t know if it’s any different, it could be a great original jangly pop song from Nada Surf.   “Janine” (Arthur Russell) is only a minute long. It’s a pretty, delicate acoustic guitar song.  “You Were So Warm” (Dwight Twilley).  I don’t know that I’ve ever heard a Dwight Twilley song, so I have no idea how this compares, but I like the way the last long of “Janine” is the chorus to this song.  I rather assume the original is not as poppy as this (but I don’t know Twilley, so why do I think that?–Turns out I was entirely wrong, the original sounds an awful lot like this version).

“The Agony of Laffitte” (Spoon).  I know Spoon, but not this song.  I can imagine how Spoon performed it, and I imagine that Nada Surf have smoothed the song out and made it prettier and slightly less dramatic.  “Bye Bye Beauté” (Coralie Clément) is sung in French. I’ve never heard of the original performer.  I don’t know how the original sounds, but this could easily be a Nada Surf song (they have done songs in French before) and the harmonies are beautiful.  Speaking of French, the also do “Evolución” (Mercromina) in French (“ev-oh-loo-see-own” is much more fun to sing than “ev-oh-loo-shun”).  This song starts out slow with a cello stating the melody.  It then turns into a dark acoustic guitar song, minor key and tension-filled.  Vocals don’t come in until a minute and a half in (the song is 5 minutes).  I’m not sure what the song is about, but even the catchy chorus is kinda dark.

“Bright Side” (Soft Pack).  Soft Pack is another band I’ve never heard of.  This song is a fun almost punk track–fast and catchy with simple lyrics a fun chorus (and ahhh backing vocals).  The disc ends with “I Remembered What I Was Going to Say” (The Silly Pillows) another band I’ve never heard of.  It is played on prepared piano in a waltz style.  Perhaps unexpectedly, it has no words.  It’s a nice capper to the album

Incidentally, the cover is a wonder line drawing that is fun to stare at and the liner notes (which would be much much easier to read on vinyl) are just jam packed with information about the original artists.

[READ: September 18, 2012] “Madame Lazarus”

Another story with a dog.  This one begins in a rather amusing manner.  An older gay man has just received a small terrier as a present from his younger lover, James.  The narrator is worried about his boyfriend staying around (he is so young and beautiful, while the narrator, who has just retired, is getting older and older).  The narrator doesn’t like the dog, but decides it will be one more thing to tie him to the James, so he decides to keep her.  He names her Cordelia.

The story is set in Paris, and the older man walks the dog around the city.  But mostly he thinks about his age and his past.  He says that anyone his age is amazed that he survived the Nazis much less lived to be an old man. He also thinks of his ex-wife, Simone, whom he meets for lunch from time to time.

The story seems like a sweet story of age and love, lost love, but love nonetheless.  But then the flashback introduces some darker moments. (more…)

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CV1_TNY_12_03_12Thiebaud.inddSOUNDTRACK:  NADA SURF-Live at Bumbershoot, October 2, 2008 (2008).

KEnadakexpXP presents this concert from the Bumbershoot Festival.  I have listened to a number of Nada Surf shows and they never disappoint.  They always sound great and their harmonies are spot on. This show is no exception. Although there appears to be a glitch at first because Daniel is in Spain for a couple of weeks (recovering from a leg injury) so they have a sub for him on bass (you’d never notice).   The band plays very well without him and Jose Galvez fills in perfectly.

Most of the set is taken from their then new album Lucky, a really great album.  There is also one song from Proximity Effect and two from The Weight is a Gift.

The set was performed in the Bumbershoot Music Lounge in a stripped down format. Ira plays the drum box rather than the kit and Matthew only plays acoustic guitar.  And it still sounds amazing. I especially enjoyed in “Weightless,” when they asked the audience to sing the backing vocals (ahhh ahhh) which sounds very nice.

There are nine Nada Surf concerts available on the KEXP site for your enjoyment, although this one is not one of them.  To see a video of the show (and Ira’s drum box), watch here.

[READ: December 3, 2012] “Trout”

As Philip Gourevitch talked about his unfamiliarity with a bear, Judith Thruman talks about her unfamiliarity with a trout.

It’s another article about volunteering to do something and being a little unprepared (although Thurman is a bit more successful in the end).  Thirty years ago Thurman went on a two-week wilderness course in Wyoming (the same location as Gourevitch, Wyoming must be pretty bad-ass).  There were fifteen adventurers in total.

She explains that they all brought supplies (like three camp stoves) and enough grains and staples so that no one would starve in even the most dire circumstances but they were a three-day hike from the nearest phone (it’s hard to imagine such a place exists in the U.S.).  Aside from the grains, they had to forage for greens and berries and for any protein they wanted to eat. (more…)

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SOUNDTRACK: NADA SURF-Live at KEXP January 30, 2008 (2008).

Nada Surf is criminally underrated and shamefully treated as a one-hit wonder for a song that sounds nothing like the rest of their work.

This four song set at KEXP features four acoustic renditions of songs from their wonderful  album Lucky.  The songs are stripped down, but the harmonies are all there.  The only song that really suffers in this format is “See These Bones,” which is a little less spirited than the recorded version (although the harmonies stand out even better).

They are also funny guys and very personable, as the interview shows.  This set is definitely worth downloading.  You can get it here.

[READ: October 6, 2012] Timequake

Timequake is Kurt Vonnegut’s last novel.  It is very much unlike any of his other novels because it is actually more of a fictional memoir than a novel.

There are two main characters in the book–Vonnegut himself and Kilgore Trout.  Vonnegut talks about his life a lot–and if you know anything about Vonnegut’s life, you know that the details in the novel are accurate.  At the same time, he talks about Trout’s life, specifically the end of his life and how he went from being a destitute bum to a celebrated and oft-quoted author.

And then there’s the matter of the timequake.  In 2001, there was the first timequake.  The world stopped expanding and moving forward and instead flashed back to 1991, where everyone picked up exactly where they were on that date in 1991, and relived every detail of their lives in exactly the same way.  Only this time they knew what was going to happen.  So every person lived on autopilot through every day for the next ten years–all the good and all the band (like the man who spent several years in prison and had to relive those years all over again).  Even the dead were resurrected and relived their days.

It’s an interesting concept and yet in the end it’s really not that interesting of a topic.  In the Prologue, Vonnegut says that he had originally written Timequake (which version he calls Timequake One) with that very premise, and that Vonnegut himself made a cameo. And yet I can see that it wouldn’t really have worked as a very good novel–unless he made up ideas for what happened to everyone and we the readers lived them for the first time– or something.

But so he bailed on that novel, but he certainly left parts of it intact for this one.  And rather than a cameo, Vonnegut features largely in this one. (more…)

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SOUNDTRACK: NADA SURF-The Stars Are Indifferent to Astronomy (2012).

Nada Surf continues to put out poppy guitar rock.  I tend to link them with Guster, in that they write really catchy pop songs about unexpected things.  The songs are usually fast, but they also writes some slower songs too.  They would make a good double bill.

This album with the wonderful title is 38 minutes long, a perfect light summer album.  If you don’t get “Waiting for Something” (which I agree is repeated waaay too often in the chorus) stuck in your head, then you haven’t been listening to this record.

All ten songs feature bouncy guitars (except “When I Was Young” which opens as a slow ballad), although even this song, after about 2 minutes, calls forth loud electric guitars.  There are some elements that show the band “maturing”–strings on “When I Was Young” horns on “Let the Fight Do the Fighting.”  But one of the songs references Gilligan’s Island, so they’re not maturing too much.

And some of the songs sound like throwbacks to other eras too, the 60s guitar intro of “Jules and Jim,” the R.E.M. ish intro of “Waiting for Something.”  It’s a great album, fun, catchy and perfect for driving.

[READ: July 24, 2012] Emmaus

I had no idea who Alessandro Baricco was when I got this book as part of my Book of the Month deal with McSweeney’s.  But I’ve never been disappointed by one of their new books before, so it was worth checking out.

The book is short–134 pages–and is novella length, which is the perfect length for this story.  [I had just read about Jim Harrison and his novellas, and I believe that there needs to be more novellas published].  This book was originally written in Italian and was translated by Ann Goldstein.

There is a prologue which is completely exciting and absolutely wonderful.  It’s only a page and a half, but it is intriguing, funny, deep and, most of all, really surprising.

The opening of the book doesn’t quite match the excitement of the prologue, but that’s because this novella has two aspects–deep, thoughtful introspection and base, animal instinct.  And Baricco/Goldstein does an excellent job keeping the flow and continuity going between these two very different writing extremes.

The book reminds me of Jeffrey Eugenides’ The Virgin Suicides for two reasons.  One: it is written about a group of boys and is written in the second person plural (at least the beginning is) and two: they are all watching a girl who is beyond their ken–someone of their world but not, someone who is en route to hurt herself.  And there’s nothing they can do about it.

But this book is entirely its own.  There are four boys who make up the initial “we” (and when it diverges from plural to singular, you really feel the loss of the other boys).  And so the book starts: “We’re all sixteen or seventeen years old, but we aren’t really aware of it.”  The four boys are good boys–Catholic (and believers, at that), who play in the church band, who volunteer removing catheters at the poor person’s hospital and who plan to not have sex before marriage (heavy petting is okay but it never goes too far).  The four boys are: the narrator, whose name is never given I don’t think; Luca, whose father is rumored to be suicidal; Bobby, the most outgoing of the bunch and The Saint, a very pious young man who has designed for the priesthood and who is not afraid to be seen as more pious than you. (more…)

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