The popular kids are back, with a fine pop sensibility to boot.

Nada Surf first emerged in the post-grunge mid-’90s as one-hit wonders with the Weezer-ish jam "Popular," a sardonic ode to high school royalty (i.e. jocks and cheerleaders). After later getting unapologetically dropped from their label, Nada Surf seemed unfortunately destined for a career spent playing their hit to uninterested drunks in dive bars, or perhaps in some epic drug problems.

But they came out of it champions with their 2003 album Let Go, and they once again beat the odds with The Weight is a Gift, an album of hazy pop perfection. They’ve traded the angst and harsh guitars they adopted in the "Popular" days for thoughtful lyrics and bouncy, catchy choruses, and singer Matthew Caws’ voice has transformed from a bitter growl to a surprisingly sweet falsetto, complemented by breathy harmonies.

The album title is derived from the second track, "Do it Again"; Caws coos, "Maybe this weight was a gift, like I had to see what I could lift," perhaps an optimistic take on their previous career struggles. Similar feel-good sentiments are sprinkled throughout the album, as in the chorus of their strong opener "Concrete Bed" ("To find someone you love/You’ve gotta be someone you love") and "Always Love" ("Hate will get you every time," Caws advises listeners).

But make no mistake – this is not Nada Surf’s Chicken Soup for the Soul. "What Is Your Secret" is devoted to frustrating/confusing/mysterious/moody women and Caws’ frustration with their confusing mysteriousness and moodiness. "Blankest Year" finds Caws in a moment of disillusionment and apathy, saying, "Oh, fuck it/I’m gonna have a party!"

Nada Surf likely won’t be remembered for their contributions to ’90s rock, which means they’ve achieved their goal: Wholly changing their image from a novelty act to a standout pop band for the 21st century.

Grade: A-

The Weight is a Gift is currently available.