Nada Surf, “Never Not Together” (Barsuk Records)
Nada Surf’s “Never Not Together” is a delicious slice of rocking power pop, nine songs about connections, empathy and alienation tied together by Matthew Caws’ eternally youthful vocals and a bouquet of inviting melodies.
Produced with Ian Laughton (Supergrass, Ash) and recorded mainly at Rockfield Studios in Wales, the band’s ninth album is dedicated to the memory of The Cars’ Ric Ocasek, who produced their 1996 debut album, “High/Low.”
The opening combination of “So Much Love,” “Come Get Me” and “Live Learn and Forget” sets solid foundations, echoing some of their earlier songs. They don’t break new musical ground but provide reassurance with instantly recognizable melodies and lyrics about feelings — like regret or yearning for a relationship — that everyone’s had at some point.
In the middle of the album is “Something I Should Do,” a key track. The lyrics contain the album’s name, inspired by a phrase from Justin Vernon, and there’s some frantic recitation that’s often very much on target — “now that the lines of non-facts waiting to get in the conversation are longer and longer.” It’s completed by synth sounds and crunchy guitars that have Cars-like tones.
The epic “Mathilda” begins with acoustic guitar and Caws singing about the complications of growing up different amid intransigent societal norms, as the various elements are accompanied by changes to the song’s tempo and dynamics.
“Looking for You” has strings and choral backing while closer “Ride in the Unknown” explodes over the horizon, easing doubts and uncertainty with companionship.
Nada Surf continues to refine its talents on “Never Not Together,” creating another strong batch of songs while putting in a good word for persistence, tolerance and reflection, and for love as a bond, both intimate and communal.