After a six-year absence, Nurses return with the album you didn't know you needed in your life.Toki's Dream, 2017
8.1 / 10
Nurses is a band that I honestly forgot about. Their last album arrived in 2011. That album, Dracula, was a somewhat of a letdown from their promising debut, Apple’s Acre, which established the duo of Aaron Chapman and John Bowers as possibly a new Animal Collective. Their music was strange and fascinating. Chapman’s voice, in particular, gave each song an instantly unmistakable signature. But since the band’s retreat after Dracula, Alt-J swooped in during their absence. They’ve come closest to mimicking Chapman’s quirky vocals and now are undeniably huge on alt-rock radio. It’s almost as if Nurses are now the bizarro world Alt-J, even though Nurses were here first. Consider then that Alt-J are seen as this eccentric band yet Nurses are still stranger. And now they’re back with Naughtland.
Most of my problems with Dracula stem from its production. The lo-fi charm of their debut was absent. But in retrospect, maybe I was too hard on it or maybe their first album was just too fresh on my mind. Whatever the case, it’s been six years, and Naughtland sounds pretty damn good. Chapman and Bowers now live in Portland and LA, respectively. So, instead of holing up in an attic or cabin, they collaborate at a distance via the Internet. However, this doesn’t work as a barrier to the duo crafting their strange songs, which on Naughtland harbor some complex themes and ideas. With their new album, the band comments on our current political atmosphere while staying true to their roots. Materiality, life, death, love, and terror all serve as themes.
While Apple’s Acre was a joyous experimental pop record (or at least that’s how I remember it), Nurses are darker this time out. They still create disoriented arrangements with the keyboards and guitars wobbling around in almost a stupor. It’s part of their music’s allure. Chapman’s voice is also still in top form, an incredible emotive device that sometimes doesn’t sound human. It’s almost a pheromone effect, attracting you to his odd choruses. On “Why” he sings, “It’s not the only way to get there/ Is to die,” suggesting that some happiness or peace can be found here rather than the afterlife. Then, over the slow soulful beat of “Heavy Money”, Chapman sings, “And it makes no difference to me/ When I feel my fortune is free.” Hooks like these make you return to the songs to search out the deeper meaning.
Chapman even uses some electronic vocal effects on “Silver Moonlight” and the album’s title track. On the latter, the duo sounds like a drunk Daft Punk using their voices as the main instrument. Nurses show they’re never afraid to experiment. Naughtland bounces around genre-wise. However, in the end, it’s wholly Nurses, and I’m glad they’re back.