Nada Surf possibly wasn't the last band anyone expected to suddenly become relevant, but its 2002 album Let Go did catch a lot of people off-guard. The New York power trio began its career performing Weezer-like brat-punk, but Let Go fused post-Radiohead sweep with Death Cab For Cutie-style emo, complete with airy melodies, heavy rhythms, and sparkling guitar. To that, bandleader Matthew Caws added lyrics which invested common items like beer signs, Bob Dylan albums, snowed-in cars, and clouds of fruit flies with richer meanings, reading them as emblematic of modern lovers' struggles to connect. Nada Surf's follow-up disc The Weight Is A Gift isn't as lyrically sharp. Like Death Cab's latest, it contains too many dippy teenage hope songs with lyrics like "Hate will get you every time." But the blunt approach can also be refreshing and effective, as on the upbeat album-opener "Concrete Bed," where Caws' insistent line "To find someone you love, you've got to be someone you love" sounds like Zen wisdom.
The album's title comes from a line in "Do It Again," one of The Weight Is A Gift's best songs. It's a coursing, live-wire rock track in the Let Go mold, with a fluttery melody that moves with erratic beauty. The "it" in question is sex, but "the weight" could be either the sensual crush of another human body or the everyday pressures that help us appreciate life's sweeter moments. The whole record works as a piece, furthering this argument for the necessity of pain and the importance of pleasure. In that context, even the too-frequent dud songs serve a purpose. Without sickly sap like "Your Legs Grow," would jostling rockers like "Armies Walk" and the relentless "Imaginary Friends" be so welcome?