Published Mar 04, 2016Nada Surf have already defied the indie rock odds by outliving the early mainstream success of their novelty hit "Popular," and achieving critical respect for 2003's excellent Let Go. In the years since, they've released several good but not great records, and at least one single on par with "Popular" — in a just world, "Blankest Year," from 2005's The Weight Is A Gift, would have been a chart-topper. Nada Surf's latest offering, You Know Who You Are, is being released to coincide with their 20th anniversary as a band, and it goes a long way in demonstrating why they have persevered for as long as they have.
YKWYA is Nada Surf's first recorded output to include the contributions of touring guitarist Doug Gillard, but this still sounds like a Nada Surf record, and after two decades of melodic indie rock, you're either onboard with Matthew Caws and company or you're not. What made Let Go resonate was the nice balance between straightforward power poppers and more nuanced melancholia, and that contrast is employed again here: the title track is a fun blast of nostalgia, but what will keep you coming back to this record are the more introspective midtempo songs like lead single "Believe You're Mine" or standout track "Gold Sounds" (not a Pavement cover!). There is a through-line of resigned weariness that gives the record some needed heft, and at ten tracks, YKWYA never overstays its welcome.
I'm loath to apply the dreaded label of "mature" to describe a band's sound, but in this case, it's apt. The highs aren't quite as high as they might have been ten years ago, but Nada Surf are dependable purveyors of indie rock, and on YKWYA, they are as solid as ever. (Barsuk)