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MAGNET Feedback With Nada Surf’s Matthew Caws

My standard icebreaker with anyone from a cab driver to stranger at a party is, “What was your favorite music when you were 16?” I love to hear people talk about their enthusiasms. When I like something, I’m given to listening to it on repeat for hours. I can’t always say what it is about a particular song that makes me want to do that, and I think that’s part of the adventure: We can be surprised. I’m always looking for the next thing to love. I also don’t believe in skeletons in the closet. I think one shouldn’t be ashamed about liking anything. I’m always looking for the next thing to love. The fine folks here at MAGNET sent me a list of 15 songs and have asked me to write about 10 of them. —Matthew Caws

The Breeders, “Happiness Is A Warm Gun”
As a fervent Pixies fan and as someone harboring a rock crush on Kim Deal, I bought the Breeders’ debut as soon as I could and rushed home to listen to it. Pod delivered on all imagined promise. From the mysteriously sexual cover (4AD’s visual mastermind Vaughan Oliver doing a fertility dance wearing a belt of eels) to Steve Albini’s explosively present production that falls just this side of lovely, the album seemed to occupy a world similar to the Pixies’, though further from the Bible and aliens and with sludgier tempos. Track three starts with a lighter lighting something before Slint drummer Brad Wal- ford (recording here under the nom de sticks Shannon Daughton) enters in a crescendo. From there on, and getting out before the original’s theatrical doo-wop end chorus, their take on the Beatles is a knockout, kicking the chorus up a few notches of intensity while dialing the singing back, in what would turn out to be classic Breeders fashion. Though the Beatles are the most covered group in history, the bands that I was listening to almost never seemed to play their songs. (Nothing comes to mind apart from the Feelies’ “Everybody’s Got Something To Hide Except Me And My Monkey.”) I may be wrong about that, but it was my impression at the time and contributed to my feeling that the Breeders were being audacious, and pulling it off. There are only three times I’ve heard a song that was not yet a hit and knew incontrovertibly that it would be an enormous one before getting through the first listen. One was Bruce Hornsby’s “The Way It Is,” heard on a car radio. Another was “Yellow” on then-unheard-of Coldplay’s first album while driving in the tour van with everyone else sleeping, having been given a promo copy at a college radio station we’d visited that day. But by far the most striking occurrence, and the only live one, was hearing “Cannonball” for the first time when the Breeders played Town Hall in New York in 1993. It was like hearing and see- ing perfection unfold in real time.

The Cars, “Drive”
I’ve listened to this song more closely when I’ve heard it recently. I was alienated by it at first, finding it forbidding in some way. Let me be clear about my relationship to the Cars: I adore them. My older sister bought all of their records as they came out, and I stared at the band photos while listening. They looked cool and the songs were giving me everything I wanted and more: mega-hooks, cold-frosted sound, short visual phrases and hot-rocking guitar solos. The fact that I would, 15 years on, meet Ric Ocasek while walking out of the Knitting Factory and give him our first demo tape; that he would invite me over to his Gramercy townhouse two weeks later (I was so excited I missed the street sign’s pole and locked my bike to nothing); that he would turn out to be one of the warmest and most generous people I’d ever met, and that he would end up producing our first album, is still completely and totally bonkers. In my teens, as I heard “Drive” come out of every radio, I could tell it was an indisputably beautiful song and melody, but its sadness was so clear that I reflexively tried to keep my attention away, probably assuming I wasn’t into the high-gloss state-of-the-synth production. Diving in now, the orchestration of those synthesizers is a wonder. It’s kind of the East Coast version of Don Henley’s “Boys Of Summer,” released the same year, with fewer guitars and less hope. And more indoor time, too much of it in a bar at the end of the night. And colder weather. Ben Orr’s dramatic vibrato carries “Drive” like a torch song. I hope the story took a turn for the better somehow.

Bob Dylan, “Stuck Inside Of Mobile With The Memphis Blues Again”
So much has been written about Bob Dylan that a book was published in 2014 entitled The Dylanologists, which is, among other things, a book about people writing books about Bob. I’m not a scholar, so I’ll keep it simple: I love his music. He would definitely be my desert-island artist. The first live playing I experienced was my Aunt Peg (who later gave me my first guitar) singing “Blowin’ In The Wind” to me when I was a toddler. Years later, while parking my first band’s van at night, “Desolation Row” came on the radio. I’d never heard it. It was freezing out and I needed to get back in the building, but the song kept going. I was totally mesmerized and waited the 11 minutes until the end. Though shorter at seven minutes, “Stuck Inside Of Mobile With The Memphis Blues Again” has that same quality that runs through Dylan’s whole catalog: a bounty of imagination, a generosity of energy, wit and feeling, one brilliant line after the next. Each of the nine stanzas is a perfect and cohesive detail-rich vignette. Each could be a scene from a different story, or all part of one. This isn’t the kind of thing I could venture a guess about. I just stand in the wind tunnel as the song blows around and past me.

The Ramones, “I Wanna Be Sedated”
Ramones fandom, event one: 1980, best friend Philip’s older brother Michael asks us 13-year-olds if we’d like to listen to some records in his room. We say yes, of course. This feels like a special event because Michael is usually away at boarding school, and in an apartment otherwise full of old paintings, his walls have modern art and rock ’n’ roll posters on them. He sits us down and plays for us, in order and in their entirety, Talking Heads’ Remain In Light, Ramones’ Rocket To Russia and the Velvet Underground’s Loaded. I am marked by every minute of the experience and feel a new reality start to open. Event two: 1982, walking along 8th Street and turned talking to a friend, I bump into someone much taller, face-first right into a striped-shirt and leather-jacketed chest. Joey Ramone evad- ing a bee. Event three: 1997, we record “Sick Of You” for We Will Fall, an Iggy Pop tribute record. The record company calls and asks if we’d back Joey up for his version of “1969” at the release party, and could we also learn “I Wanna Be Sedated.” Cue incredulous and giddy band hysteria and a week straight of playing those two songs. Practice at Context Studios. We’re nervous and probably grin- ning. Joey arrives and is beyond sweet. His friend, producer Daniel Rey, is along playing guitar and (very understandably) counts off the song at Ramones concert speed. Our drummer Ira doesn’t start, insisting we play it like the record, the way we’ve been practicing it, which is much slower at this point. Joey smiles after we run through it, says it reminds him of the old days. He really said that. The record release show goes really well. After we play, Joey says, “If you guys want, learn your six favorite Ramones songs, and at the end of your next show in town, I’ll get onstage and sing them with you.” We happen to have a show at Coney Island High two weeks later! That night there are some new faces in the audience, and people look happy and expectant; word must have gotten out. We play our show and then tell the audience that we want to bring out a special guest. After that it’s a blur in my memory. I mostly remember ecstasy. “1969,” “Judy Is A Punk,” “Cretin Hop,” “Teenage Lobotomy,” “Do You Remember Rock ’N’ Roll Radio?” “Bonzo Goes To Bitburg,” “I Wanna Be Sedated.” Forgot to talk about the song I guess. It’s one of the best ever.

The Runaways, “Cherry Bomb”
The Runaways, “Cherry Bomb” Legend has it Joan Jett wrote this song on the spot for Cherry Curie to sing during her audition to be the Runaways’ singer. On the spot. Watch Jett in the promo video. Good lord. There’s no right answer to the question, “Who’s the most rock ’n’ roll?” But it’s harmless fun to ask it, and the few seconds you get to see her play are the beginning of a fine case that she’s as good an answer as any. I love that pop and rock music occupy such an enormous space of possibility—storytelling, social commentary, love, lust, hardship, pure celebration and everything in between—but in terms of its details, I love that a hook can come in any form, from a melody to a beat to a lyric to, in the case of “Cherry Bomb,” half a syllable: “ch.” Did it come from David Bowie’s “Changes” five years before? Was it the vocalization of Jett’s palm-muted chugging playing style? Doesn’t matter. It’s catchy, and the song rocks. Like Dee Dee Ramone over on the other coast, Jett is a deft master of the simple chordal riff and indelible melody, neither of which are easy to write. It hadn’t occurred to me until recently how much they sound like a blueprint for the Sex Pistols, especially instrumentally.

Lou Reed, “Dirty Blvd.”
I met our drummer Ira when bassist Daniel and I used to go see the Fuzztones play in the mid-’80s. I met him again when I was interning at the Magic Shop recording studio on Crosby Street. My main duties were making coffee, getting the door and putting all microphones and cables back in their place at the end of the night. I didn’t end up becoming an engineer (my curiosity about electronics was lagging behind my interest in music), but I had some really great experiences and learned a lot in different ways. Ira was the Smithereens’ drum tech, and they’d come in for a month to make an album and we reconnected then. Lou Reed came in to play some guest guitar for a couple of days. I remember his amp and effects rig—this is aside from any speakers—being literally the size of a standard refrigerator. We weren’t to address him. One night I was charged with bringing cassettes of the day’s session to his apartment on Christopher Street. I knocked on the door. He opened it wordlessly, took the tapes and closed the door. I didn’t mind; he seemed complicated, and that was fine. A few years later, I sat with him in his office and interviewed him for Guitar World, who he always granted an interview with. My given mission was to get him to talk about anything but gear. I asked him about lyrics and early rock ’n’ roll music. He was a real sweetheart. Why am I telling you these things that have nothing to do with the song? Maybe because, like Dylan, Reed is such a towering figure over modern music’s landscape (and mine) that I hardly know what to say, and if you’re reading this magazine it’s likely you love him, too. The third verse of “Dirty Blvd.” is all too relevant now: “Give me your hungry, your tired, your poor, I’ll piss on them/That’s what the Statue Of Bigotry says/Your poor huddled masses/Let’s club ’em to death/And get it over with and just dump ’em on the boulevard.”

Kate Bush, “Wuthering Heights”
On a rainy afternoon in May 1990, I got a call from my friend Tom Shad. “Meet me at Avery Fisher Hall. We’re going to see a show, we’re going to scalp tickets. It’ll probably be 50 bucks each, but I promise you it’ll be worth it.” “What are we going to see?” “Just trust me.” Tom was a consummate musician whom I’d met when both our bands (I was in the Cost Of Living and he was in Cowboy And Spin Girl) were on a compilation called Eastern Shores. He was plugged into the Hoboken and Boston scenes, both of which I was fascinated by (he’d go on to play in Dumptruck with Seth Tiven, Kevin Salem and future Helium drummer Shawn Devlin), and immediately made an impression on me with his breadth of knowledge. I decided I should trust him and put on my rain jacket. A hundred dollars later, we sat down in the sixth row, right in the middle. Out walked 23 women in colorful folk costumes. With a nod from their conductor, they all began to sing at once. The sound was shocking. With almost no vibrato, they formed dense, droning and sometimes dissonant chords that they’d hold before turning on a dime, while soloists took turns embellishing with stunning complexity. It was loud and otherworldly. The melodies were sad, but the whole was so beautiful that you couldn’t help but feel joy. This was the Bulgarian State Radio And Television Female Vocal Choir. I’m grateful to Tom to this day for the experience. A compilation from 1975 called Le Mystère des Voix Bulgares had been recently re-released and a follow-up volume two had just won a Grammy. I bought both at the newly opened CD(!) store down the street from my house. I also bought a Kate Bush album that day, The Sensual World. I’d heard a few songs of hers and was curious, and the cover grabbed me. Back home, what should I hear on track nine, “Rocket’s Tail,” but a smaller version of that same sound from the week before! Kate was backed on that track by the Trio Bulgarka. I quickly became obsessed with that song (if you’re a David Gilmour fan, you’ll want to check out the outro) and also with “Love And Anger,” which I sang to myself so regularly from then on that we ended up covering it 20 years later. I’ve ventured out to other periods in Bush’s career, but I’ve always returned to The Sensual World. There’s no denying countless other songs of hers, including, of course, debut single “Wuthering Heights.” Something that I love about her music is how, despite the high-wire nature of her best melodies, I’m convinced they came to her fully formed, in one go. Maybe it’s the powerful sense of place in her songs, making one think she could imagine herself there and just start singing. Some songs get paired in my mind like sister cities. This one’s partner has always been Michael Penn’s “No Myth.” They reference the same book but, more importantly, both have unmistakable and serpentine chorus melodies. Another pair of sisters are Elvis Costello’s “Veronica” and XTC’s “Mayor Of Simpleton,” both top-shelf examples of British pop released a year apart. Bonus triplets: “My Perfect Cousin” by the Undertones, “David Watts” by the Kinks and “Geoffrey Ingram” by the Television Personalities, all different takes on the kid who has it all. Here is a degraded TV spot on Kate and the Trio Bulgarka in the studio.

Death Cab For Cutie, “You Are A Tourist”
Seeing Death Cab For Cutie play at Brownies in New York on tour supporting second album We Have The Facts And We’re Voting Yes happened at just the right time for me. It was May 2000. Dropped by Elektra Records after our second album, The Proximity Effect, hadn’t seemed to them worth releasing in the U.S., I was working in a record store, writing songs and trying to figure out a path forward. Death Cab were loud, catchy, literate and complex without being fussy. I bought their albums at the merch table near the exit and went home inspired and energized. Two years later, our third album, Let Go, would come out on their same label, Barsuk Records, two of the tracks having been mixed by guitar player/producer Chris Walla. He was sick that day and on a short break between tours, so it was very generous of him to do (on the cheap as well!). Of possible interest to recording enthusiasts: Chris spent two hours getting sounds and volume and compression levels on our song “Happy Kid.” He then hit play on the multitrack and record on the two-track. That’s it; he didn’t touch a fader or mute button. I was standing right there. It’s not a flat arrangement, either; there are plenty of dynamic shifts. Chris went on to produce our follow-up, The Weight Is A Gift. The whole band made us feel really welcome on the label, our home for 15 years now, even taking us on tour. We’ve become good friends, and we’re really glad to know them. “You Are A Tourist” is a perfect example of what the band does best. They manage to sound powerful and meditative at once. The band chugs along like a warm machine, drummer Jason McGerr bringing an edge of funk that percolates without starting a separate party, as complex playing so often does. Bassist Nick Harmer joins him in pushing the groove while adding hooks, Chris brings the atmosphere and repeating themes, and Ben Gibbard offers the melody and message. An old Brooklyn music friend, Howard Fishman, recently wrote this about Cat Stevens in The New Yorker, and I think it could just as well be said about Death Cab and Ben in particular: “Indelible melodies, beautiful production, emotionally committed performances, and, most of all, a gentle wisdom, a repudiation of the status quo, a sense that we were not alone. Here was someone who was trying to make sense of life, too; he may not have had the answers, but he was looking for them, and we were encouraged to join him. Here was a friend.”

Guided By Voices, “The Official Ironmen Rally Song”
The first song I heard by Guided By Voices was “My Impression Now” on the Fast Japanese Spin Cycle EP. Aside from being a fantastic song, what really struck me was the bass playing. The first 45 seconds are magic, all deft support, sweet touches and an additional killer melody. After that it falls apart a bit before pulling it together for the finish. What makes the song’s opening so special is that it’s clear that whoever was playing bass was making it up on the spot and hitting a moment of deep and lucky grace. They could have done another take, but I know from experience that the beginning would never have been as good. That move, not redoing it, made me believe in them. I was hooked. I’ve since fallen for literally hours of their songs. Their shows are a non-stop hit parade. Like Ron Sexsmith, Robert Pollard is one of those writers who seems to have hit an absolutely inexhaustible vein of memorable melody and can marry those melodies to words that will stick. I’m sure I’ll forget lots of music, but I know that if in 20 or 30 years I read, “To dine alone/To build a private zone/Or trigger a synapse/And free us from our traps,” I’ll be able to sing it straight away. Our fourth member, the amazing Doug Gillard, is back playing guitar with them, but we’re happy to share. Long may they run!

Phoenix, “1901”
There’s a great podcast called Song Exploder that focuses on one song per episode, talking to the artist and sometimes the engineers and others involved about any and every aspect of that song’s writing, construction, recording, etc. Individual tracks are singled out, demo versions are listened to, etc. Phoenix did one recently for the title track of their new album Ti Amo. I had a feeling they’d have some pretty sweet processes going, based on their sound, but they exceeded my expectations. They sample every note of every synthesizer in their collection, share a server with all their music files so they can trade off and all work on the same track at once, run cheap dictaphone mics through fancy gear, etc. These guys are advanced. I imagine them turning in their albums ahead of schedule while managing to have a nice lunch every day sitting outside somewhere. “1901” is one of my faves, along with the whole album it’s on, Wolfgang Amadeus Phoenix. What’s striking is how well-arranged their songs are. Landscapes and sounds change at just the right time, the tones are always sweet, and everything stays exciting. “Love Like A Sunset” I could listen to on loop. They win the award for best English lyrics by a French band, sharing that distinction with Stereolab (if Laetitia Sadier makes the latter count). They also make exactly the kind of music I’d want to dance to if the club we played turned into a rock disco after the show.

Nada Surf, “Popular”
Were other folks who’ve done this column offered one of their own songs? [Nada. —ed.] Ack, what do I do? Am I not being a good sport if I don’t write about it? Do I seem self-centered if I do? This was a last-minute assignment, I’m writing on a deadline and can’t spend much time on this choice, so here we go. This was the only song most journalists wanted to talk to us about for at least the first five years of our career, but a lot of time has gone by now. What might someone want to know? It was 1993, and I was working the graveyard shift at an investment bank called Bear Stearns, 1 a.m. to 9 a.m. five days a week, typing and making pie charts. Miserable job but good pay, which I invested in the band. It also gave me plenty of hours that felt like free time if I was willing to forego a little sleep. I was fooling around with a four-track one afternoon, trying to write a guitar part that sounded like Sonic Youth. I got something going that was part of the way there, not dissonant exactly, but circular and a little haunting, with two notes ringing in repetitive unison. Next to me on the table was something I’d just picked up at the Goodwill store on the corner, a teen advice book by Gloria Winters called Penny’s Guide To Teen-Age Charm And Popularity. It had “Glamour Editorial Department” stamped on the inside and cost me 25 cents. There was counsel in it about how to end a relationship: “Three important rules for breaking up: Don’t put off breaking up when you know you want to, prolonging the situation only makes it worse. Tell him honestly, simply, kindly but firmly, don’t make a big production, don’t make up an elaborate story … “ (I don’t have the book with me right now and can’t check if that quote is verbatim, but that was the spirit of it). What struck me as strange was how on the one hand this was sensible advice, but on the other was presented so plainly, with no allusion to the difficulty of teenage (or any) love. The advice got stranger from there: “You can date that same person again after a month; they will appreciate your fresh approach.” “Being attractive is the most important thing there is. Wash your hair at least once a week.” I started to think there was a song in there. I tried to imagine what kind of chorus someone who bought into all this would sing. “I’m head of the class/I’m popular/I’m a quarterback/I’m popular/My mom says I’m a catch/I’m popular/I’m never last-picked/I got a cheerleading chick.” We started to play the song at shows, asking our more dramatic friends to come up out of the audience to read passages from the book on pages we’d marked for the verses, signaling them to pause while I’d sing a chorus. When it came time to record, I tried reading from the book, but it felt too stiff. I put it down and just started making it up. I’d looked at the pages so much that a lot of what I said was verbatim. We had our school friend Catherine Talese come over to read some passages as well. The idea was that my voice would be buried on one side, hers on the other and the words would only really be discernible on the chorus. A more muddled version of something like the Velvet Underground’s “The Gift” or Pavement’s “Fame Throwa.” When Bryce Goggin was mixing our first recording of it, I explained what I was imagining. Ten minutes later, he called me back into the control room. He’d turned Catherine’s vocal off, had put mine in the middle and turned it up. “Oh, no, no, wait, turn me down!” But he kept his finger on the fader and made me listen. Over the volume, he said, “That’s a pop song.” He was right. We were sending up a half-imagined culture, but on our first tour after the song’s release, football players and cheerleaders were down front partying. We stopped singing it for a while, when it was the only song anyone knew, but now I like to do it every night. I still think it’s funny. It’s a lot of words, though!

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In The News: Breeders, David Byrne, Juliana Hatfield, Car Seat Headrest, Nada Surf, Ride, ABBA, David Duchovny, Robert Plant And More

Shocker in Gloomtown: The Breeders are with child, their first offspring in 10 years; the due date is March 2. The result of a tryst between Deal sisters Kim and Kelley, Josephine Wiggs and Jim Macpherson, All Nerve is being delivered by 4AD. The Breeders will be available for playdates across North American and Europe starting April 6 at the Ace Hotel in L.A. Bring cannonballs and helium balloons … David Byrne will release American Utopia, his first solo album since 2004’s Grown Backwards, on March 9 via Todomundo/Nonesuch. More songs about buildings and food or nothing but flowers? We’ll see … Juliana Hatfield fans, the singer/songwriter is hopelessly devoted to you this spring: On March 23, her Hey Babe debut gets a 25th-anniversary, newly mastered vinyl reissue, and on April 13, Hatfield pays tribute to a hero with the 14-track Juliana Sings Olivia Newton-John (both come courtesy of American Laundromat) … Will Toledo has re-recorded Car Seat Headrest’s 2011 Bandcamp fave Twin Fantasy, and Matador will release it February 16, therapist not included … We’re not the only ones who think Nada Surf‘s Let Go is a classic (foreshadowing, dear readers), so to celebrate the LP’s 15th anniversary, the likes of Aimee Mann, Manchester Orchestra, Rogue Wave, the Long Winters, Holly Miranda and Ed Harcourt have pitched in to cover the record; band-released charity album Standing At The Gates: The Songs Of Nada Surf’s Let Go is out digitally February 2 and on CD March 2 … Stop gazing at your shoes: Ride has a new EP out February 16 on Wichita; the four-track Tomorrow’s Shore features Weather Diaries standout “Pulsar” plus three new songs … Two out-of-print 2001 Songs: Ohia EPs—one untitled, the other Howler—are being compiled and released as Travels In Constants on February 16 by Temporary Residence … Wilde may be on Morrissey’s side, but Yeats is definitely on Bob Geldof‘s; the musician/advocate tackles the life and work of poet extraordinaire William Butler Yeats on two-DVD/CD documentary set A Fanatic Heart (Network Ireland Television/MVD, February 9), with readings by the likes of Bono, Sting, Elvis Costello, Van Morrison, Liam Neeson, Shane MacGowan, Colin Farrell, Noel Gallagher, Dominic West (McNulty in the house!) and Stephen Fry … Edgeland, Kim Richey‘s first album in five years, is out March 30 on Yep Roc … ABBA‘s ABBA: The Album (1977)—not to be confused with ABBA’s ABBA the album (1975)—will be reissued by Polar/UMe on January 26 as a half-speed-mastered, 45-rpm-cut, 180-gram, double-LP set. Mamma mia, indeed … The Baez is back in town: On March 2, Joan Baez will release the Joe Henry-produced Whistle Down The Wind (Proper), featuring the Rock And Roll Hall Of Famer’s take on songs by the likes of Tom Waits/Kathleen Brennan, Anohni, Josh Ritter and Mary Chapin Carpenter … David Duchovny (yes, that David Duchovny) will release sophomore album Every Third Thought on February 9 via King Baby/GMG. We want to believe … Rick Springfield is back, and the working-class dog has a case of the blues on The Snake King, out January 26 via Frontiers … Motherlover Justin Timberlake’s fourth album, Man Of The Woods, is out February 2 on RCA … On February 9, Eagle Rock will issue Robert Plant & The Sensational Space ShiftersLive At David Lynch’s Festival Of Disruption on DVD. Expect a whole lotta love … On February 23, Omnivore is reissuing 1984’s Travel With Love and 1992’s Know Jah Better by ska/rocksteady trailblazer Justin Hinds40 Trips Around The Sun is a 17-track best-of from Toto featuring all the hits plus three previously unreleased recordings, due out February 9 on Legacy.

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MAGNET’s #22 Album Of 2016: Nada Surf’s “You Know Who You Are”


Nada Surf songwriter Matthew Caws tends to wear his heart on his sleeve, and relationships remain a recurring theme on the bittersweet You Know Who You Are, this great band’s eighth LP (seventh if you don’t count 2010’s covers effort If I Had A Hi-Fi). Recently married, Caws doesn’t shy away from past hurt; on the Stones-y “Animal,” he laments, “I forgot that’s what people do/They pair off two by two/Until one of them turns blue.” But the gorgeous, jangly “Rushing” finds him physically and mentally enthralled by love: “I haven’t landed since I don’t know when/Now I feel like I can breathe again.” If there’s any quibble about You Know Who You Are, it could use more of the modest, talented—but not modestly talented—guitarist Doug Gillard. While it’s not as if his contributions aren’t vital to the vibe throughout, his exquisite 35-second solo on “Friend Hospital” is the only time he’s really unleashed; it’s a shining moment that begs for a repeat. But this is nitpicking: You Know Who You Are is further evidence that Nada Surf’s impeccable catalog stands among the finest of its generation. Those who get it? You know who—well, you know.

—Matt Hickey

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In The News: Hold Steady, She & Him, Loretta Lynn, Iggy Pop, Nada Surf, Depeche Mode, Lady Gaga, Black Sabbath, Traveling Wilburys And More


Deluxe editions of the Hold Steady’s first two LPs, Almost Killed Me and Separation Sunday, will be released on CD and vinyl, complete with previously unreleased bonus material, on November 11 via Frenchkiss … She & Him have announced the October 28 release of Christmas Party, the duo’s second Christmas album, on Columbia … White Christmas Blue is the upcoming Christmas album from Loretta Lynn, due out from Legacy on October 7 … Eagle Rock will issue Iggy Pop’s Post Pop Depression: Live At The Royal Albert Hall, in multiple formats on October 28 … October 28 will also see the release of the first career-spanning Roy Orbison anthology, The Ultimate Collection, from Legacy … A new live album from Nada Surf, Peaceful Ghosts (Live With The Babelsberg Film Orchestra), will be released October 28 by Barsuk … The Growlers will issue City Club via Cult on September 30 … Big Boat, the latest album from Phish, is set for an October 7 release on the band’s own JEMP label … Sony will issue the first-ever career-spanning anthology of Depeche Mode’s music videos. Video Singles Collection is due out on November 11 as a three-DVD DigiPak … On October 21, the fifth studio album by Lady Gaga, Joanne, will be released by Interscope Records … A limited-edition six-double-LP vinyl boxed set containing all of Black Eyed Peas’ studio albums, The Complete Vinyl Collection, will be released by UMe on September 30 … Lisa Loeb’s new album, Feel What U Feel, will be available October 7 exclusively on Amazon Music … Paranoid, the 1970 second album by Black Sabbath, will be reissued as a super deluxe edition by Rhino on November 11 … Polyvinyl is celebrating its 20th anniversary with the November 25 release of Polyvinyl Plays Polyvinyl, which will feature tracks by Beach Slang, the Dodos, Deerhoof, of Montreal and more covering tracks by bands from the label’s catalogue … November 11 marks the release of Kristin Hersch’s new double-CD/book combination, Wyatt At The Coyote Palace, via Omnibus … The sixth album by Miranda Lambert, The Weight Of These Wings, is set for a November 18 release on RCA … Sweetback’s self-titled debut turns 20 this year, and to celebrate, Legacy will reissue the album on limited-edition vinyl October 28 … The Traveling Wilburys, Vol. 1 and The Traveling Wilburys, Vol. 3, the two albums recorded by the Traveling Wilburys (comprised of George Harrison, Jeff Lynne, Roy Orbison, Tom Petty and Bob Dylan), will be reissued by Concord Bicycle on October 14 … Descendant/RCA will issue the second album by Colony House, Only The Lonely, on January 13 … On November 11, Omnivore will release High Noon: A 50-Year Retrospective, containing the work of NRBQ.

—Emily Costantino

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Nada Surf: Earthbound


After 2012’s blast into the cosmos, Nada Surf gets grounded

This time, there would be no beery acoustic renditions of new tunes in Nada Surf’s Brooklyn rehearsal compound. One phone call would have to suffice—which seems sort of appropriate, given the displaced, transatlantic nature of You Know Who You Are (Barsuk), the moody follow-up to The Stars Are Indifferent To Astronomy, a breathless rush of power-pop adrenaline that was among MAGNET’s best LPs of 2012.

“On the previous album, we wanted to sound like we do live,” says the band’s 48-year-old leader, Matthew Caws. “On this one, we were trying to be open to anything. Some musical feelings came up that were kind of old, and some others that were more adventurous. I tried to be as clear as I could in getting things down. I tried to say what I was thinking.”

For anyone interested in labels, You Know Who You Are is Nada Surf’s “relationship” album. It contains some of Caws’ most emotionally direct lyrics to date, especially on “Rushing” (about the blinding uplift of new love) and the album-closing “Victory’s Yours” (an official sign-off on a dysfunctional union). He remains spot-on in conjuring wide-eyed wonder from a middle-age perspective. Hence, the deceptive simplicity of something like, “I don’t mind if it’s raining/I don’t mind if it’s hot/I don’t mind what you’re thinking/I don’t mind if you’re not.”

“Rushing” and “Victory’s Yours” were written with Grammy-winning songwriter (think Adele) and Semisonic alum Dan Wilson. “We sat for a whole day and just traded life stories, and over the next three days, we wrote, using that first day of conversation as a well to draw from,” says Caws of the collaboration.

Along with co-founding bassist Daniel Lorca and longtime drummer Ira Elliot, Nada Surf has now absorbed guitarist Doug Gillard as a full-fledged member. “On the last record, I played on and developed parts for every song, but they were already written and structured by the band,” says Gillard. “On this one, I was part of the rehearsal and writing process from the ground up.”

The group again worked with producer/guitarist Tom Beaujour in Hoboken, N.J., on the album’s initial tracks. The final 10 songs were culled from a variety of sources, and a few underwent fairly significant tweaks. The final version of low-key first single “Believe You’re Mine” is faster than the original. “That was a song where I tried all different kinds of versions and speeds and stuff,” says Caws, who did most of his singing at home, recruiting the Posies’ Ken Stringfellow to provide backing vocals on a few tracks. “All the harmonies on ‘Believe You’re Mine’ are Ken,” says Caws. “If you re-listen with that in mind, it’s pretty nuts. He knocked it out of the park.”

Another standout—and a natural choice for a second single—is “Cold To See Clear,” which was originally written for Caws’ upcoming project with Michael Lerner of Telekinesis. “When you’re sitting on your couch, at really low volume, you can sing pretty high without much effort,” says Caws, commenting on the origins of his signature falsetto, which reaches new heights on “Cold To See Clear.”

You could argue that Caws’ singing has actually improved with age. “I’d like to not be the one to say that,” he laughs.

Though he’s based in Cambridge, England, to be near his 11-year-old son, Caws has been spending quite a bit of time in Manhattan of late. For our interview, he’s retreated to his childhood apartment on the Upper East Side to find a quieter place to talk. “I’m seeing somebody in New York, so I’m back more than ever,” he says.

So, apparently, the airliner high in a cloudless sky on the cover of You Know Who You Are is no mere coincidence. “I have a lot of guilt about air travel. I have an enormous carbon footprint,” says Caws. “We’re in a world in grave danger, and we shouldn’t be flying—but here we are.”

—Hobart Rowland

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Film At 11: Nada Surf

Everyone knows the stress behind presenting something to your peers. Well, Nada Surf breaks that fear in its new video for “Cold To See Clear.” Grabbing the mic and serenading his fellow colleagues, while wooing the women, the singer turns a terrifying situation into a dance party. So get off your computer and shake what your momma gave you by checking out the clip below.

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In The News: M. Ward, Animal Collective, Avett Brothers, Nada Surf, Black Sabbath, Grant-Lee Phillips, Michael Cerveris And More


On March 4, Merge will issue M. Ward’s eighth solo album, More RainAnimal Collective has announced the February 19 release of its 11th full-length, Painting With, via Domino … Live, Vol. Four is a concert recording of the Avett Brothers’ 2015 New Year’s Eve gig, due out from American/Republic on December 18 … Third Man Records will issue the soundtrack to Quentin Tarantino’s new film, The Hateful Eight (composed by Ennio Morricone), on vinyl on December 18 … The eighth album by Nada Surf, You Know Who You Are, is due out March 4 via Barsuk … On January 22, the first three studio albums from Black SabbathBlack Sabbath, Paranoid and Master of Reality—will be available as deluxe editions on Rhino. That same month, the band will launch its final tour across North America … Grant-Lee Phillips will release his new record, The Narrows, on March 18 via Yep Roc … Straight Outta Compton’s official soundtrack, featuring tracks by N.W.A, Eazy-E, Parliament, Ice Cube and more, is set for a January 8 release via UMe … Plowboy has announced the February 26 issuing of Meridian Rising, Paul Burch’s concept album based on the life of Jimmie Rodgers … The latest album from Michael Cerveris, Piety, will be released February 5 on Low Heat/RedEye.

—Emily Costantino

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In The News: Nada Surf, Françoise Hardy, Johnny Cash, YACHT, Alanis Morissette, Bill Hicks, Rage Against The Machine, Richard Hawley And More


Live At The Neptune Theater, a deluxe three-LP package featuring Nada Surf’s 2012 performance in Seattle, is available now digitally via Pledge Music … Omnivore has announced the October 16 release of the soundtrack to The Winding Stream: The Carters, The Cashes And The Course Of Country Music. The documentary film chronicles the life and career of the Carter family, and features songs by the Original Carter Family, George Jones, Johnny Cash, John Prine, Roseanne Cash and more … Françoise Hardy’s first five French-language albums—Tous Le Garçons Et Les Filles,
 Le Premier Bonheur Du Jour,
 Mon Amie La Rose, 
L’Amitie and
 La Maison Ou J’Ai Grandi—will be reissued by Light In The Attic on October 16 on CD, and as deluxe LPs on January 26 … On October 16, the new album from YACHT, I Thought The Future Would Be Cooler, will be available from Downtown … The 20th anniversary of Alanis Morissette’s Jagged Little Pill will be celebrated by Rhino with a four-disc collector’s edition. It will be out October 30 and include remastered audio, an entire disc of previously unreleased demos, as well as a full concert from 1995 … Strangers Again is the latest studio album from Judy Collins, due out September 18, and it contains guest appearances from Jeff Bridges, Don McLean, Jimmy Buffett, Willie Nelson and more. She’ll tour extensively this fall in support … Comedy Dynamics will issue a Bill Hicks boxed set on September 11. Bill Hicks: The Complete Collection has 12 CDs, six DVDs and a photo book … Natalie Merchant’s new album, Paradise Is There: The New Tigerlily Recordings, a collection of all-new recordings revisiting solo debut Tigerlily, will be released along with a companion documentary on DVD on November 6 via Nonesuch … October 16 marks the release of Rage Against The Machine’s Live At Finsbury Park on DVD, Blu-ray and digital formats by Eagle Rock … An updated version of the dB’s and friends’ 1986 EP Christmas Time, Christmas Time Again!, will be available October 16 from Omnivore … Otis Blue: Otis Redding Sings Soul turns 50 this year, and Rhino will commemorate the occasion with the October 30 release of an Otis Redding boxed set, Soul Manifesto … Concord Jazz will issue Two, a live double-album by Chick Corea & Bela Fleck, on September 11 … Richard Hawley’s eighth studio album, Hollow Meadows, will be out September 11 via Warner Bros. … On September 14, Eric Clapton’s Live At The Royal Albert Hall will be released in cinemas worldwide. It features his May performance celebrating his 70th birthday as well as 50 years in the music business … The first new album from Kinky Friedman in nearly 40 years, The Loneliest Man I Ever Met, will be released October 2 via Avenue A/Thirty Tigers … Dear Wormwood is the second LP from the Oh Hellos, due out from Elektra on October 16 … Acetate will release Holdin’ The Bag, the new Supersuckers album, October 16 … Maserati’s new LP, Rehumanizer, is due out October 30 from Temporary Residence Ltd. … On October 16, a collection of previously unreleased recordings by John Renbourn, The Attic Tapes, will be available from Riverboat.

—Emily Costantino

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Nada Surf: Reach For The Stars

To celebrate our return to publishing the print version of MAGNET three years ago, we will be posting classic cover stories from that time all week. Enjoy. And order a copy of the issue here.


Still thriving in their mid-40s, the members of Nada Surf are that much closer to unlocking heaven’s gate. By Hobart Rowland

Apparently, the rumors are true: Matthew Caws is never more than an offhand comment away from an impromptu live performance. Right now, he’s launching into a punchy acoustic rendition of Echo & The Bunnymen’s “Do It Clean” as his Nada Surf bandmate, Daniel Lorca, follows along on acoustic bass. The smoke from a pair of cigarettes forms a twisty plume above two bobbing heads as it drifts to the vaulted ceiling of the Sitcom—the band’s loft-style rehearsal space, makeshift studio and, if need be, place for expat friends to crash—situated in the once-bleak, now-hyper-hip Williamsburg section of Brooklyn.

The song punctuates Caws’ giddy reaction to the suggestion that New York artist Graham Parks’ overexposed, mustard-yellow cover art for Nada Surf’s new album, The Stars Are Indifferent To Astronomy (Barsuk) bears a passing resemblance to that of the Bunnymen’s 1980 debut, Crocodiles. “Beautiful,” he gushes. “I’m an Echo & The Bunnymen freak.”

At 44, Caws is still as aw-shucks smitten with music as he was in his teens, whether it’s the classic rock and punk he grew up on, or his more recent infatuation with influential folk guitarists Elizabeth Cotten and Bert Jansch, who actually inspired some of the picking on Nada Surf’s latest batch of music. And even with plenty of other things vying for his attention these days—including a seven-year-old son living in Cambridge, England, Caws’ new home—he still embraces the clichéd notion that music is the ultimate remedy for pretty much whatever ails him.

“I’ve tried to meditate, because I know it’s supposed to be really good for you,” says Caws, between sips from a can of PBR. “I’ve tried to sit there in the morning for 10 minutes and think about nothing—and it’s very fuckin’ difficult.”

After a brief jaunt in Spain to film a video for Astronomy track “Waiting For Something,” Nada Surf has assembled at the Sitcom on a chilly December afternoon to discuss the new album and other recent developments, including an extensive international tour that’s a little more than a month away. Conversation begins in the kitchen area, but with a PBR 12-pack within easy reach, digressions are plentiful. Talk turns to the time Lorca was free-diving in Mexico and found a scorpion in his wetsuit, then onto the rhythmic merits of Neil Peart vs. Charlie Watts, the time Joey Ramone sang with Nada Surf at Coney Island High shortly before his death and the rigors of deciphering the Teutonic tongue. “I did at least four years of German,” says Lorca, who’s fluent in English, Spanish and French. “My girlfriend’s Austrian; I have an apartment in Vienna. I can order a beer and buy a pack of cigarettes, and that’s about all. It’s impossible.”

Things eventually shift to the lounge area, with its modest smattering of recording equipment, after Caws suggests an “Astronomy unplugged” preview of the new music. Caws takes a seat on the couch with Nada Surf’s Queens-bred drummer, Ira Elliot, who, without his set, briefly resorts to tapping away on an iPhone drum app. At 48, Elliot is the band’s most seasoned musician. “I played in reggae bands, goth bands, heavy-metal bands—all sorts of crazy-ass things,” says Elliot of his pre-Nada Surf work, which included an ‘80s stint with garage-rock purists the Fuzztones. “As a drummer, if you do your job properly, everyone will ask you to play. I said yes to everyone.”

The dreadlocked son of a retired Spanish diplomat, the 44-year-old Lorca is gregarious and free-spirited where Caws is more measured, meticulous and thoughtful. Both are exceedingly gracious and forthcoming, and it’s easy to see why the two have been so close since first meeting up as grade-school students at the exclusive Lycée Français de New York, a French-focused private institution on Manhattan’s Upper East Side. The very definition of a healthy coupling, the two couldn’t be more different, yet they complement one another perfectly.

Lorca has a passion for soccer—something Caws couldn’t care less about. It explains Lorca’s brief disappearances throughout the afternoon, as he heads to a nearby bar across the street to catch portions of a Spanish league match between Real Madrid and FC Barcelona. After one such trip, he arrives just in time to grab his Guild B-30—a purchase inspired by a Violent Femmes show and paid for with a tiny inheritance he received from his grandmother—and join in on Astronomy’s lead track, “Clear Eye, Clouded Mind.” It’s a bracing start to an album of deceptively complex power pop produced by Chris Shaw (Super Furry Animals, Ted Leo + The Pharmacists).

“This is our Rocket To Russia,” Elliot quips, referencing Astronomy’s breathlessly efficient 38 minutes.

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Best Of 2012, Guest Editors: Nada Surf’s Matthew Caws On The Reigning Sound’s “Bad Man”

As 2012 has come to an end, we are taking a look back at some of our favorite posts of the year by our guest editors.

Nada Surf’s Matthew Caws isn’t big on organized religion, but when the spirit does move him, it always has a soundtrack. And that soundtrack has come a long way over the last 16 years. You’d be hard-pressed to discern so much as a whiff of snarky 1996 hit “Popular” amid the bracing, impeccably crafted power pop the trio hammers out with breathless efficiency on its new release, The Stars Are Indifferent To Astronomy (Barsuk). The transportive power of music is something Caws touches on quite frequently on Astronomy—that is, when he can tear himself away from more pressing concerns for our fucked-up planet. Caws will be guest editing all week. Read our new Q&A with him, and check out our cover story on Nada Surf in last month’s issue of MAGNET.

Caws: I have watched this Reigning Sound video dozens and dozens of times. Everything about it appeals to me. The song, the audience, the way it’s shot and, most of all, Greg Cartwright’s unbelievable performance. The words “like a man possessed” would be very accurate here. His whole body is shaking, his right arm barely keeping up with the furious tempo. The first time around the words, he sings, “I’m no good for you,” but the second time it’s, “I’m still too good for you.” This little detail makes the sentiment of the song come alive for me. He’s both processing and taking shelter from his pain in the healing arms of some very fiery rock ‘n’ roll.

Video after the jump.

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