After resurrecting their career from the post- "Popular" slag heap by re-imagining their buoyant Weezer-pop into the melancholy, drifting post-collegiate mien of 2002's Let Go, Nada Surf stood still. Their follow-up, The Weight is a Gift, made the mistake of lingering and allowing the seams to show in their somewhat overintellectualized musings on love and distance. Musically, it was much of the same — a nice catch-up for those late to Let Go, but not much of an extension or expansion on their newfound Northwestern swoon.

Frontman Matthew Caw's signature ache and the implicitly gray-skied solemnity of their wistful waltzes are less a litmus here because they've opened windows, inviting sunshine in and loosing greater instrumental warmth. Producer John Goodmundson (Rogue Wave) gets brighter sparkle from the power trio (and nearly a dozen other contributors), while the band balances its effects better. "Weightless" is a fine example, fitting the longing of their post-millennial soft-focus balladeering within the break of its whirling power-pop rush, as Caws notes, "Behind every desire is another one, waiting to be liberated." Even when Caws opens "See These Bones" with the line "Everyone's right and no one is sorry, that's the start and the end of the story," his deadpan earnestness is leavened with beguiling musical shimmer to ease negotiations at the border between clever and glib.

Chris Parker writes about music for Metro Times. Send comments to [email protected].

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