"I believe our love can save me," Nada Surf frontman Matthew Caws sings on "Beautiful Beat," track three of the band's fifth full-length album, Lucky.
As is typical of indie pop, this and many other songs on the album, which was released Feb. 5, focus on relationships. Nada Surf, however, is able to transcend the depressing, whiny tone that is beginning to characterize the genre.
This was not always true of the Brooklyn-based trio, whose angst-driven novelty song "Popular" was a hit in 1996. This Weezer-esque track was the only piece of their debut album, High/Low, to gain any public attention, and after a few months of MTV rotation, Nada Surf plunged into obscurity.
Prior to the release of sophomore album The Proximity Effect in 1998, Nada Surf severed ties with Elektra, their record label, causing a legal battle for rights to the album and a subsequent delay in its release. Despite the difficulties this change caused, it was undoubtedly a good decision for the band.
After forming their own independent label, MarDev, Nada Surf was able to change their sound, attracting a small but loyal fan base and scoring them a contract with Barsuk Records for their third and fourth albums, Let Go (2000) and This Weight is a Gift (2005).
Lucky is consistent with the band's past three albums: heavy on melodic power-pop gems and light on sarcasm and anger. This is not to say, however, that Nada Surf has lost the wit that gave them some popularity in the '90s. Songs like "From Now On," a harder track about jealousy spinning out of control, will please fans of Weezer and Death Cab for Cutie alike.
One of the album's most memorable tracks is "I Like What You Say." As Caws sings, "They say if you're not lonely alone/ boy there is something wrong," his wariness towards love and relationships is evident. Despite the song's cynical lyrics, its chorus, "You say, 'I like what you say'," is surprisingly bouncy and very catchy.
While "The Fox" and "The Film Did Not Go 'Round" also combine obscure metaphors and haunting guitar riffs to make sweet, poignant ballads, Lucky's strongest track is certainly its first - "See These Bones." Sung by skeletons, the seemingly morbid song is actually life-affirming and celebratory. Each verse begins with lyrics of longing accompanied by minor guitar finger-picking that gives way to a chorus of major chords: "Look alive, see these bones/ What you are now, we were once." By the song's end, these words seem optimistic, even happy, setting a dreamy yet determined tone that lasts until Lucky's last chord.