Thursday, August 4, 2016
Magic Marker Records MMR012
The debut album by Dear Nora is my favorite record by Katy Davidson. It was recorded when Dear Nora was an actual band as opposed to a Davidson solo project like the later Dear Nora albums and her work as Key Losers. Davidson still wrote all the songs but the rhythm section of Marianna Richey and Ryan Wise provides some welcome oomph to her songs and I appreciate Richey's harmony vocals as well. It was produced by Amy Linton of the Aislers Set in her basement and with its reverb laden sound it reminds me of their albums. The album begins with "Rollercoaster" which is a languid song driven by Davidson's jangly guitar and a prominent bass line from Wise. As is typical of many of the songs on the album, the lyrics are simple and repetitive. The propulsive "'Round and 'Round" is my favorite track on the record. It is one of the hardest rocking songs Davidson has ever done and shows off the advantages of the rhythm section and Richey's vocal support. "Since You Went Away" is a self-examination song in which Davidson examines her faults which caused her to lose a friend or lover. The song sounds like sunshine pop with its catchy melody bolstered by surf guitar style riffs from Wise and Davidson and strong harmonic support from Richey. "You Looked Like a Portrait" features energetic guitar work from Davidson but unfortunately no rhythm section. The song sounds naked without it. Wise and Richey return for "When the Wind Blows" which is another bouncy sunshine pop song. "Springtime Fall" is a quiet song with some of the best lyrics on the album. Its introspective character is typical of the thematic sophistication of Dear Nora's later work. Side two continues in a similar vein with "I'm Turned Inside Out" which is another subdued sensitive song of self-examination that references the changing of the seasons. The record picks up speed with the ebullient "Everyone's the Same" which is a goofy song about unrequited love that gets me bopping. This is another one of my favorite tracks. "Early to Bed" is another gentle song with a classic pop sound that evokes early 1960s girl groups. "Number Twelve" is a lethargic instrumental. It picks up a little energy as it goes along, but it doesn't really go anywhere. It sounds like a backing track missing its vocals. I find it mildly engaging because I have a thing for jangly guitar lines. "From My Bedroom Window" is a simple song with a repeated refrain about being watched through a window. It starts quiet and slow before exploding into the most raucous song on the album. The album abruptly shifts gears with the delicate "A Lullaby." It is a very short, but sweet love song that gives the album a tender finish. From a strictly artistic standpoint this is arguably Davidson's weakest album. With its lightweight lyrical content and power pop sound, it resembles Dear Nora's early 7" records more than Davidson's later Dear Nora records which are more personal and idiosyncratic and her recordings as Key Losers which are far more musically sophisticated. She has certainly grown as an artist and I admire that. However this record makes me happy whenever I play it which isn't really the case with "Mountain Rock" or "California Lite." Some listeners might find it excessively precious and twee, but I dig that, especially when it is accompanied by jangly sunshine pop. Davidson has obvious chemistry with Marianna Ritchey and I wish they'd work together more. I'm also a fan of their CD as Lloyd and Michael, "Just as God Made Us." This album is recommended to fans of Ladybug Transistor and the Aislers Set.