Wednesday, August 5, 2009

Review: Nurses - Apple's Acre (* * * 1/2)

A few weeks ago I got all excited about up and coming psychedelic pop/folk band Nurses, who caught my attention with the first single, "Caterpillar Playground," from their now recently-released debut album. The tune exemplifies what's best about the Portland duo of Aaron Chapman and John Bowers, who use a variety of instruments and off-kilter production to create strangely charming pop songs, often channeling several musical influences into their tunes but keeping the music quite unique to the band. Their new LP, Apple's Acre, is the work of men with plenty of ambition and some great ideas, and though the results aren't completely consistent, there's enough here to warrant serious attention.

The band revealed one of their highlights by giving "Caterpillar Playground" an early release, but they easily match its quality several places throughout Apple's Acre. Opener "Technicolor" and the bluesy, messy "Lita" are especially excellent, with manic vocal harmony over clanging piano and simple, steady drum beats. Like many of the record's most enjoyable songs, the two tunes are best appreciated through headphones or in a quiet room when you can hear the subtle nuances the band throw in to their music - a dash of synth here, some 'kitchen sink' percussion there - a little bit of everything but never enough to distract from the melody. The music is certainly never boring, and by the end of the psych-folk closer "Orange Cymbals," the group haven't exactly worn out their welcome, but you get the feeling that keeping the record at a trim 35 minutes was an intelligent choice.

Psychedelia's resurgence into the indie scene has felt a little tired of late, but though Nurses probably fall into that category, they avoid retreading old ground with their fairly novel approach, generally forgoing heavy, hazy guitar riffs and spaced-out vocals for a sort of piano-pop-meets-classic folk sound. With the addition of plenty of twists and turns stuffed into the ten brief tracks and some engaging (and occasionally bizarre) melodies, Nurses make Apple's Acre a solid debut from which they will hopefully build a successful career.

Caterpillar Playground (MP3)