Nathan White is a Chapel Hill dentistry student; Nathan Oliver is the debut LP of the selfsame fella in singer-songwriter mode working on incisive songs (vs. incisor teeth). Oliver (nee White) rounded up some of his friends who have played with Portastatic, The Rosebuds, and Destroyer, and recorded these 10 two-to-three-minute pop-rock gems. Taken as a whole, Nathan Oliver‘s 27 minutes explore dark territory. Opener “Black Ship White Sails” is a nuanced slice of eerie rock, where I hear Oliver’s best approximation of Conor Oberst’s voice and earnest delivery. “Old Slow Poke” follows, and is acoustic angst which initially echoes the Violent Femmes, but culminates in a screaming finale more reminiscent of pissed-off punk. “Greys and Blacks” mixes the dark texture of a New Wave anthem with a gritty bounce akin to the The New Pornographers. A neo-gothic reading of Ace of Base’s “All That She Wants” is wholly unexpected, but easy to appreciate. Less appreciable is “I Lived in a Crater,” a minute-plus ukulele jaunt that attempts to provide lightness but comes off meaningless. The latter half of the album loses strength, and somewhat diminishes the vigor the opening tracks. Due to its brevity, Nathan Oliver feels a bit like a lengthy, unedited EP, but the power of its best tracks offers a welcome punch.
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