A lot has happened to Nada Surf since the NYC trio's introduction to the record business a decade ago. Its Ric Ocasek-produced debut album on Elektra, 1996's high/low, spawned the scathing high school satire "Popular." But just two years later, the same label refused to release a darker but equally stellar follow-up, The Proximity Effect -- and Nada Surf found itself without a U.S. record deal. Released in Europe on time (and stateside by the band in 2000), Effect at least kept the band on the indie-rock radar. Then when Nada Surf finally recorded Let Go, it seemed a natural fit to put it out on the Seattle-based indie label Barsuk (a.k.a. Death Cab for Cutie's former home). While the 2002 album freed Nada Surf from one-hit-wonder status, it later put pressure on the band to come up with something just as good. Happily, its fourth album, The Weight Is a Gift, is also its best. Although it possesses a stubbornly optimistic core, Gift more often rumbles with varying degrees of betrayal, deception and heartache that sound like rather painful therapy sessions. Bolstered by the plush production of Chris Walla, the melodic music is just as bittersweet, driven by sugary power-pop chords and fuzz-rock catharses that often spiral into wistfulness.
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