4.5 out of 5 stars
As far as alternative pop outfits go, Nada Surf has one of the most interesting sagas going. Some of you may remember that they scored a hit with the song “Popular” on their 1996 debut. But a lengthy period of label strife followed and their second album went nearly unheard. However, a move to Barsuk Records and revamped songwriting led to two fantastic albums in a row.
The thing that really sets the Brooklynbased trio apart from every other pop-rock band out there right now is the fact that their lyrics are amazingly literate for a pop band. Not that this is really a big secret, but what sets this particular album apart is its surprisingly upbeat tone. Where their other albums could be considered good rainy day pop records, this one by comparison feels almost sunny. Musically speaking, this album is a shimmering batch of pop songs that contains enough eclectic moments to earn it start to finish status. From the methodically and dynamically beautiful climax of opener “See These Bones,” to the power pop attack of “Whose Authority” and “Beautiful Beat,” to the polka ending of “Ice on the Wing,” the overall songwriting is just about as strong as it has ever been. And while the hooks don’t ring as loudly as they did on their last record, they are still present and manage to shine brightly. It’s a more than worthy addition to the Nada Surf canon and a fine alt-pop record from one of best of the genre.
Key Tracks: “See These Bones,” “Whose Authority,” “Beautiful Beat”
3.5 out of 5 stars
After many years of recording and performing, Chan (pronounced Shawn) Marshall, aka Cat Power, is starting to get some serious buzz, and it’s no wonder really. There is a certain ethereal soulfulness in her voice that few can claim to possess.
Her latest album, “Jukebox,” is a covers record, and it’s not the first one that she’s done (she released “The Covers Record” back in 2000). And it’s been successful so far, peaking at number 12 on the Billboard Top 200 albums list. On first glance, the first thing that stands out is the varied and interesting nature of the songs she’s chosen. They include Hank Williams’ “Ramblin’ (Wo)man,” James Brown’s “Lost Someone,” and “New York” (yes, the one made famous by Frank Sinatra). It’s ambitious, but Marshall certainly has the voice to pull it off, and she does. Combine her voice with the song arrangements and this album carries a hauntingly beautiful aura with it. It’s just a solid soulful record from start to finish that finds Marshall on top of her game.
Key Tracks: “Ramblin’ (Wo)man,” “Blue,” “I Believe in You”