In 1996, High/Low spawned the New York trio's lone hit, "Popular." Quite removed from their comparably glitzy mainstream debut, Nada Surf's minimalist indie-rock sensibilities set the tone for their third album Let Go. Switching record labels, the band relinquished the pretense of snaring mainstream acceptability, instead crafting thoughtful, personal delves into melancholic bliss. The sweet hum of the bass fused with the twinkling guitars nearly lulls the listener into a serene sublime state. Nada Surf's soft, poppy musicality and introspective lyrics breeds credibility. Unfortunately, the lack of range displayed by Caws' feathery crackling vocals dissolves the impact. His pubescent high-note scratch on the brooding yearn "Inside of Love" ruins an otherwise polished tune. Let Go draws unfavorable analogy to other artists in both name and style. Nada Surf's "Blonde on Blonde" looks farcical compared to Dylan's seminal work, which spins on Caws' portable stereo. "Hi-Speed Soul," kicks off with a hollowed-out guitar intro -- a device proved far more effective on The Hives' "Hate To Say I Told You So." And, the acoustic "Blizzard of '77" simulates Simon and Garfunkel's melodic form while displaying uncharacteristic insincerity. A few tracks shine through the pitch, almost in spite of the lead singer. The standout track, "The Way You Wear Your Head," carries a catchy repetitive structure and a familiar chorus over a serviceable rock montage. Likewise, the driving beat and guitar throng of "Treading Water" even suits Caws' meager talents. Nada Surf's competent musicianship displays a genuine disposition maintained throughout; sadly, their vocalist brings down the entire effort. On "Popular," Caw proved to possess an admirable speaking voice, but even over the chorus' guitar bedlam, his shortcomings were patently obvious. The purist may find love for this album, but should seek out a more professional package in the Flaming Lips or Wilco.


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