Nada Surf: If I Had a Hi-Fi

RIYL: Josh Rouse, Rogue Wave, The Silver Seas

The cool thing about alt-pop band Nada Surf is that they appear to always do things their own way. For whatever reason, though, they stayed together all these years and broke through in 2005 with The Weight Is a Gift, which was produced by Death Cab for Cutie’s Chris Walla. The band continued some of that magic with 2008’s Lucky, and instead of lying low as they had planned, decided to release an album of cover tunes. Fast-forward to today, and If I Had a Hi-Fi. While it’s a set of songs that varies widely from the known (Depeche Mode’s “Enjoy the Silence” and The Moody Blues’ “Question”) to the currently hip (The Go Betweens’ “Love Goes On” and Spoon’s “Agony of Lafitte”) to the mostly obscure (Bill Fox’s “Electrocution” and Macromina’s “Evolucion”), the base of this is Nada Surf’s signature sound, which is akin to Josh Rouse or Ben Folds fronting a modern version of the Beatles. And it’s that sound that is so endearing. That said, there is something about this album that, while nice enough, may leave you wanting more. That could be because Nada Surf’s original material is that good, or it could be that they just chose these songs on a whim based on what they were listening to at the moment. Surely we can’t fault them for taking chances, because they even covered Kate Bush’s “Love and Anger.” But one or two covers on a new Nada Surf record would have worked just as well. (Mardev 2010)

Nada Surf MySpace page


The Lovetones: Dimensions

You have to hand it to an artist, especially one that is not likely making a ton of money to begin with, for dedicating his time and resources to a project like the Lovetones. The brain child of Matthew J. Tow, the Lovetones, for the uninitiated, are a super-groovy psychedelic pop outfit, and their latest, Dimensions, is an album out of time, and multiple times at that. Tow’s baritone recalls the Moody Blues’ Justin Hayward in “Song to Humanity,” “Love and Redemption” is a direct ancestor to “Eve of Destruction,” and the instantly memorable “Journeyman” works the Mellotron like nobody’s business. It’s all quite lovely – though it often borders on laconic – and critics eat this stuff up because it reminds them of their youth (this writer included, sort of). The band’s problem, as it were, is that ’60s psychedelia is purely a niche market in today’s climate; the last time this album had a chance of reaching a wide audience was with fans of the Church or as an after-hours chill record for the Love & Rockets crowd in the late ’80s. Give Tow credit for doing what he loves, but don’t be surprised if this turns out to be the last thing the Lovetones ever do. Cold hard reality has a way of fucking up things like this. (Planting Seeds 2009)

The Lovetones MySpace page