Twenty years after their debut, alt-rock vets Nada Surf return with You Know Who You Are, their eighth studio LP and first set of new material since 2012's The Stars Are Indifferent to Astronomy. Less brash than its predecessor, You Know Who You Are aims for the comfort zone with power pop that distills decades, from '90s college alternative through the post-indie boom of the early aughts. Mostly, it's a happy affair, where triumphant horns ("Out of the Dark") and bright harmony ("Cold to See Clear") abound. They've cut away some of the jauntiness -- there's no "Blankest Year" here -- and are long past the bitterness of "Popular." Even the mellower moments, like "Believe You're Mine" and "Gold Sounds," soothe with their familiar tones, much like Sloan and Death Cab for Cutie. Semisonic's Dan Wilson lends his writing credits to two tracks ("Rushing" and "Victory's Yours"), a pleasant pair that floats along on breezy guitar twangs and sunny backing vocals. Frontman Matthew Caws' voice remains casual and warm, at points reminiscent of Ben Gibbard ("Friend Hospital") and even Bob Dylan ("Animal"). The album also marks the second release with former Guided by Voices member Doug Gillard, who increases the guitar richness on rollicking tunes like "New Bird" and the title track. Two decades into their careers, as a mature Nada Surf continue to channel their youthful spirit, they've recorded a wise, plaintive album that touches upon the sounds of their past while confidently looking toward the future.
AllMusic Review by Neil Z. Yeung