A hit single nearly killed Nada Surf. Too arch for its own good, the 1995 MTV favorite "Popular" doomed the New York trio to novelty status. Throughout the '90s, the threesome continued to meld the rich guitar textures of shoegaze, grunge's warm fuzz and sunny '60s pop -- along with a healthy dose of Cheap Trick -- into a buttery power-pop bonbon that European fans gobbled while American audiences bulked up with trans fats and nü-metal. With 2003's Let Go and its 2005 followup, The Weight Is a Gift, produced by Death Cab's Chris Walla, the aging hipsters again pricked up American ears. Though the outfit occasionally comes off as an irony-deficient Fountains of Wayne (thanks to Matthew Caws's torn-from-a self-help-book lyrics), most every song is saved from the cheese drawer by Nada's glorious flair for irresistible melodies, mellifluous harmonies and a slightly graying but undiminished thirst for fun. It took more than ten years for the group to stop trying to be so clever. Maybe the wait is a gift.
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