Release Date: Sep 20, 2011
Record label: Dead Oceans Records
Genre(s): Pop/Rock, Alternative/Indie Rock, Alternative Pop/Rock, Indie Rock
When Steven Malkmus mused about the voice of Geddy Lee in Pavement’s “Stereo”, his band was still under-dogging its way through a commercial rock landscape rife with singers whose mouths sounded full of marbles. That post-grunge moment was nearly 15 years ago, when beyond the likes of Coyne, Yorke, Lytle, and Linkous, few male pop/rock singers were gaining notice by courting Lee’s register. Malkmus’ laid-back but literate style was in another class altogether, wary of both earnestness and exertion, and all the more interesting for it.
There’s been something of a psychedelic-pop renaissance, recently. You might have noticed it seep through the cracks of mainstream music, the shimmering daze of Animal Collective’s warped sun-kissed sound echoing in the washy chimes of chart-botherers like MGMT and more recently, Foster The People. Portland trio Nurses’ new album, Dracula, arrives on a tide of appreciation for ethereal spins on melodious pop, then – a wave of hunger for music that sounds like old Beach Boys cassettes left to warp on a car dashboard in the Californian sun.
Starting with the appropriately queasy-ish "Fever Dreams," slightly warped shoegaze-ish guitars in a tight loop as Aaron Chapman's at once breathy and direct singing cuts through a slow-building rhythm, Nurses have found themselves in a much stronger, more distinct spot than 2009's Apple's Acre allowed for. Dracula, for all the gothic connotations the name might call up, deals in a different kind of busy, involving darkness and something shadowy, but always emphasizing a kind of taut groove that shows the continuing impact of a meta early '80s, somewhere between Downtown 81 and Laura Branigan's "Self Control," pop and clatter all at once. The end effect is ultimately liberating, letting Nurses explore something more than the late-2000s indie cul-de-sac they'd found themselves in previously.
When Nurses were born in 2004, they were a tight art-rock unit. Seven years later, they’ve become unrecognizable from their former selves—they’ve managed to become less focused over time. Following the coherent Hangin’ Nothin’ But Our Hands Down, the Portland group signed to Dead Oceans and cast out the decidedly un-poppy, amorphous Apples Acres.
I’ve learned that it helps to keep an open mind when confronted with a vocalist who makes your skin crawl the first time you hear him/her. I never want to end up like Mitch Miller wondering what the hell John Hammond was doing with the frog-throated Bob Dylan. Do you remember what you thought when you heard Clap Your Hands Say Yeah’s first album? You remember how you ended up digging it anyway? This occurs to me about 30 seconds into Fever Dreams, the first track off the Nurses new album.
The now Portland-based psychedelic pop band Nurses have always had a sound peculiarly their own. While inevitably adjusting themselves to the music around them, Nurses have also long channeled some of the more ‘carnivalesque’ sounds of the 70s and 80s. In their past two albums, they’ve evoked bands like The Cure and their psychedelic pop album The Top, post-Oceans Artery, and practically the entire catalogue of The Birthday Party.
Often compared to Animal Collective and MGMT, Portland trio Nurses originally wooed critics with their 2009 debut, Apple’s Acres. Sweet, synthesized, and nostalgic, the disc was a credible first step into the indie scene. Its interesting synth twists, intermingled and driven by the group’s vocalist Aaron Chapman, distinguished this album as a testament to Nurses’ creative vision for their music.
Ambition is something we tend to applaud in music. We like it when bands push themselves, when they shift dramatically or make a bigger sound or encorporate fresh elements into their sound. It keeps us interested, even when it doesn't work. Nurses released a self-made debut in 2009, called Apple's Acre.