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12 by Nada Surf

12 by... aims to summarize and artist's career in 12 songs. This one features...

 An underrated band if there ever was one, and one that managed to defy all odds by overcoming one-hit wonder status and the major label death blow and become one of the most reliable bands of the 2000s and beyond.

1. "Pressure Free" (from Karmic EP, 1995)
"And if I'm waiting for nothing / then what am I doing?" A Gen X anthem if there ever was one.

2. "Popular" (from High/Low, 1996)
Sure, it's gimmicky and not representative of who they are as a band. But it's also funny and clever.

3. "Zen Brain" (from High/Low, 1996) 
The song from their Ric Ocasek-produced debut that most predicts the band they'd eventually become. While still ensconced in the Weezer-esqe fuzz, the searching lyrics and strong melody are clear harbingers. 

4. "Hyperspace" (from The Proximity Effect, 2000) 
Wherein the band is revealed as the power-poppers they truly are. "Hyperspace" also shows a clear jump in polish - just listen to the bass and drums - despite the fact that The Proximity Effect was more DIY than their first album. 

5. "Amateur" (from The Proximity Effect, 2000) My favorite part is when singer Matthew Caws' lyrical disco ball reference gets a disco beat response from drummer Ira Elliot. 

6. "Blizzard of '77" (from Let Go, 2003) 
A swift acoustic barn-burner with great imagery, i.e. "the cars were just lumps in the snow." 

7. "Inside Of Love" (from Let Go, 2003) 
This used to be my theme song, pre-Wendy. You can really feel Caws when he sings: "I'm on the outside of love / always under or above / must be a different view / to be a me with a you." 

8. "The Way You Wear Your Head" (from Let Go, 2003) 
Great rocker with a Cheap Trick paraphrase and a car alarm rhythm. 

9. "Concrete Bed" (from The Weight Is A Gift, 2005) 
It's rare to find a songwriter who can turn a philosophical phrase without coming off like a prick. Bono and James Taylor can do it, and so can Matthew Caws. "To find someone you love," he tells us, "you've gotta be someone you love." 

10. "Do It Again" (from The Weight Is A Gift, 2005) 
In the midst of an on-again-off-again involvement with a girl (which was a bad idea all around), I found great solace in this song. I always tried to interpret the line "maybe this weight was a gift" as "maybe this wait was a gift." 

11. "Always Love" (from The Weight Is A Gift, 2005) 
More philosophy: "always love / hate will get you every time." Okay hippie, whatever, I guess it's kind of true. By the way, America covered this song. How weird is that? 

12. "Blankest Year" (from The Weight Is A Gift, 2005) 
"Oh, fuck it!" Just like Miles (Curtis Armstrong) pointed in Risky Business, they can be very liberating words. 

*

The above was revised in 2021. Here's the original entry:

1. "Zen Brain" (from High/Low, 1996) 
The song from their debut that most predicts the band they'd eventually become. While still ensconced in the Weezer-esqe fuzz, the searching lyrics and strong melody are clear harbingers. 

2. "Popular" (from High/Low, 1996)
Sure it got them 

2. "Hyperspace" (from The Proximity Effect, 2000) 
Wherein the band is revealed as the power-poppers they truly are. "Hyperspace" also shows a clear jump in polish - just listen to the bass and drums - despite the fact that The Proximity Effect was more DIY than their first album. 

3. "Amateur" (from The Proximity Effect, 2000) My favorite part is when singer Matthew Caws' lyrical disco ball reference gets a disco beat response from drummer Ira Elliot. 

4. "Blizzard of '77" (from Let Go, 2003) 
A swift acoustic barn-burner with great imagery, i.e. "the cars were just lumps in the snow." 

5. "Inside Of Love" (from Let Go, 2003) 
This used to be my theme song, pre-Wendy. You can really feel Caws when he sings: "I'm on the outside of love / always under or above / must be a different view / to be a me with a you." 

6. "The Way You Wear Your Head" (from Let Go, 2003) 
Great rocker with a Cheap Trick paraphrase and a car alarm rhythm. 

7. "Concrete Bed" (from The Weight Is A Gift, 2005) 
It's rare to find a songwriter who can turn a philosophical phrase without coming off like a prick. Bono and James Taylor can do it, and so can Matthew Caws. "To find someone you love," he tells us, "you've gotta be someone you love." 

8. "Do It Again" (from The Weight Is A Gift, 2005) 
In the midst of an on-again-off-again involvement with a girl (which was a bad idea all around), I found great solace in this song. I always tried to interpret the line "maybe this weight was a gift" as "maybe this wait was a gift." 

9. "Always Love" (from The Weight Is A Gift, 2005) 
More philosophy: "always love / hate will get you every time." Okay hippie, whatever, I guess it's kind of true. By the way, America covered this song. How weird is that? 

10. "Blankest Year" (from The Weight Is A Gift, 2005) 
"Oh, fuck it!" Just like Miles (Curtis Armstrong) pointed in Risky Business, they can be very liberating words. 

11. "Whose Authority" (from Lucky, 2008) 
Holy cow, have they been listening to Teenage Fanclub or what?! 

12. "Beautiful Beat" (from Lucky, 2008) 
An an ode to the power of song, but is also the exact kind of song it's about. Just like the snake eating its own tail.

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