Thursday, January 14, 2010

Nurses "Apple's Acre"

Published 8/17/2009,
written for WERU Online.

Nurses released their sophomore album, “Apple’s Acre” on August 4th, the beginning of a month regrettably well on its way out. In regards to music and weather, the wet season came in like a waterlogged lion, in order to inevitably spring out like a sunshiny lamb. Intentional or not, a looming autumnal mantra thrives from the start within Nurses new album, the follow up to 2007’s “Hangin’ Nothin’ But Our Hands”, as the album opens with the track “Technicolor”, which resounds with a moodiness that is free. This mood emotes the emptiness of cooler weather, summer going and crisper breezes coming. You can find autumn even in the literal, the thought of apples. Though I was a Nurses virgin till what has seemed like a very protracted week, they seem relatively small scale. The Portland scene has certainly taken notice, as “Man at Arms” has been featured on KEXP Song of the Day podcast.
The lyrical power, listen after listen, extends beyond bands of a similar sound including MGMT and Animal Collective. Where other groups tend to express often visual, literal statements as lyrics, Nurses’ words possess interpretability. Hand in hand, in this collection of song, lies perhaps the most remarkable of Nurses stylistic approach to folk, an emotional honesty. “Apple’s Acre” could, beyond doubt, be listened to in the most solemn or joyful of moods. The sadness lies in the honesty and emptiness. “I’m callin’ all my friends today/ask them what they think/I hope they all still care about me,” from “Mile after Mile”, is blatant, hitting heart strings with its falsetto soprano. It all lacks the formulaic doom and gloom of other bands and raises mood with the psychedelic sound.
Nurses find a comfortable placement in psychedelic and freak folk genre, comparable to the aforementioned danceable sounds of Animal Collective. As beat often binds any track, the changing drumming approach, including a slowing or a picking up, adds an alluring element. The transitions are smooth and intrigue a listener as far as to ask, “Why did that happen? How will it end up?” However, they are not solely dependent on drum machines or drum kit.
The numerous voices that blend into one Nurses are hard to pinpoint. There exists an inevitable throatiness, one that avoids an overtly irritating sound, is slightly similar to that of Cold War Kids’ Nathan Willett, with a more pop, less rock influence. The use of band members Aaron Chapman and John Bowers is rarely dissonant, assimilating and feeding off one another’s vocal tonalities, sometimes with increased grittiness, sometimes with a dripping, loose quality, both of which featured in the cut, “Bright Ideas.” The actual sound of the recording, from Dead Oceans, is not like the empty acoustics of a theater, a room, a cabin, but nearly underwater wasteland.
In all, the music is a striking and true feeling of your feet firmly rooted, but your arms puffed up with helium, moving with little conscious control: grounded but unconscious, like a balloon man in a used car lot. It warrants both the Woodstock era, arm flailing dance and the careful, conscious head nod. One complaint, we were given only 35 minutes of this round of Nurses. Unlike most psychedelic folk music that dabbles in the fluorescent rainbow spectrum of colors and sounds, Nurses stays rooted in the colors of fall, the red, the yellow, the orange.

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