As far as I’m concerned, there’s always room in this world for another band whose main concern is producing the catchiest melodies and backing them up with pretty harmony vocals and some simple guitar strumming. Pop bands are popping up on the “indie” radar left and right these days, with labels and zines devoted exclusively to the international pop scene, and many of them are astoundingly good and catching your attention and keeping it. Dear Nora, a trio from Portland, Oregon, fall into this sphere, bouncing and la-la-la-ing their way into your head on their debut album, We’ll Have a Time.
Dear Nora is a showcase for the songs of Katy Davidson, and those songs are 100% catchy, hummable and memorable. The lyrics are personal, relationship-based, not especially unique but at times touching, in those places where the lyrics and the melodies meet together just right. The music is simple, direct and, for the most part, intended as a serviceable way to get the pop songs across. In other words, you won’t find lots of guitar solos or acid-rock freakouts; the musicians are taking a catchy pop song and delivering it to your ears.
It all seems simple — play some pop songs and make people smile. But, thankfully, there’s more going on with Dear Nora than what’s on the surface. The album works so well because, while staying within this framework of straightforward pop songs, the band manages to cover a lot of musical ground. Many strains of rock have been based on simple chords and a verse-chorus-verse structure, and Dead Nora does a splendid job touching on many of them within getting stuck in just one format.
A few of the songs are evocative of the great “girl groups” of the 1960s, especially the sweet “Since You Went Away”, which would fit right into any “oldies” radio format. Then there’s mellow, almost folk-ish ballads, like “Springtime Fall” and “I’m Turned Inside Out” and some almost nursey-rhyme-like (or Beat Happening-like) pop songs, like “When the Wind Blows”. My favorites, though, come when Dear Nora decides to rock it up a bit, either in a direct way (“‘Round and ‘Round”) or with a dreamy, almost psychedelic edge, as on “Everyone’s the Same” and “From My Bedroom Window”.
We’ll Have a Time is a bit short, falling into the current trend of “leave them wanting more” indie releases that clock in under 30 minutes. That’s only a minor gripe, though, because what they do offer has few flaws. And, I suppose, it can be seen as an effective technique, because Dear Nora has left me wanting me, anxiously awaiting their next batch of pretty pop music.