"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 were 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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