When Nada Surf celebrated the 15th anniversary of their 2002 record Let Go back a few years back, it felt impossible to imagine that these songs we’d held so close had been with us so long. In many ways, the milestone felt like a metaphor for a band that at least this reviewer had taken for granted. Nada Surf is one of the most underrated pop bands of nearly the past three decades, and revisiting Let Go solidified that. Their records have been consistently great, full of the kind of easy breezy hooks that call to mind early Teenage Fanclub, the kind that can completely wash over you with sunshine or bittersweet melancholy and leave you in awe of their power. Their latest release, Never Not Together, finds them continuing to craft these big sparklers and continuing to come of age even this far along in their career.
Coming of age is a common thread on Never Not Together, a record that ultimately explores various states of humanity. On “Live and Learn and Forget” Matthew Caws’ sweet, smooth harmonies keep us calm. “It’s always what you do next / There’s always another try / Every age we’ve ever been / We carry all our lives,” he sings, and there’s something comforting in knowing we’re not alone in that feeling of being a teenager stuck in an adult’s body. “Just Wait” is a similarly reassuring reminder that the best is yet to come, an idea that connects us all.
Never Not Together looks for connection everywhere and finds it in everything from our ailments and insecurities to our ability to be open and love one another. We hear this quest unfold especially on the epic “Looking for You,” particularly in its explosive finale, and in euphoric album opener “So Much Love,” a song that leaves you better than when you found it. And we get completely swept away by “Ride in the Unknown,” which closes things out with a big, shiny question mark, encouraging us to keep seeking and keep growing. If we don’t have optimism, what else is there?