Find yourself a versatile keyboard with more effects than you’ll ever need and a rack full of percussion instruments, and you don’t really need any extra elements to make up a band. That’s all Portland, Ore. duo Nurses needs to stir up some swirling, gleefully bizarre psychedelic indie pop on Apple’s Acre, their debut album for Dead Oceans. For anyone who has followed the likes of Mates of State or Quasi, it should come as no surprise that this combination would work so well. But there’s something just different and weird enough about Nurses to make their own brand of psych-pop an altogether unique one.
Aaron Chapman and John Bowers only hint at their full capabilities on “Technicolor,” the leadoff track from Apple’s Acre. The duo lays down a bouncy rhythm beneath a sparse melody, with eerily quirkily vocals that sweetly harmonize in their own mousy way. Still, there’s a special kind of magic in the way the keys twinkle and whirr over the simplistic thwacks, which comes to bigger and more theatrical fruition on “Mile After Mile,” a carnivalesque ride through galloping beats and fanciful squinks of piano. With “Caterpillar Playground,” however, the duo opts for a drunken Disney singalong with ticking clock percussion and whimsical whistling harmonies. It’s a surreal combination to be sure, but one that ultimately becomes easy to warm up to. When the group plays it a bit straighter, albeit still maintaining their artful tendencies, they pull out a wonderful highlight like “Manatarms,” which features one of the album’s most infectious choruses. Although at moments when they sound just extravagant enough, as on the title track, they can make quite the zanily lovely tune.
Nurses may, technically, be just two men (though they’ve since expanded), but one can almost picture a backup band of cartoon gnomes and nymphs and woodland creatures, getting soused on witches’ brew and banging on stuff along with them. There’s a lot of character on Apple’s Acre, which would be a great enough start on its own. That there’s some great songs as well makes it all the more of a treat.
Jeff Terich is the founder and editor of Treble. He's been writing about music for 20 years and has been published at American Songwriter, Bandcamp Daily, Reverb, Spin, Stereogum, uDiscoverMusic, VinylMePlease and some others that he's forgetting right now. He's still not tired of it.