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Nurses: Apple's Acre (Dead Oceans) 

On paper, the Nurses' formula sounds a shade of awful: hootenanny percussion, two guys singing in layered high-pitched caterwauls, and plinking pianos topped with synthesizers. But what music ever sounds good on paper?

In actuality, Apple's Acre is instantly invigorating, caterwauling and all. Aaron Chapman and John Bowers have created an alternate universe (or acre, if you will) in which the neighborhood winos are also futuristic prophets with a hyper-developed sense of melody and rhythm. Each song is equally focused on percussion and melody. Guitars are sparse, and Bowers' and Chapman's voices cry, wail, whistle and whine together in cathartic glee. Melodies and beats morph into myriad variations, all of which are consistently catchy. All this, despite those voices in the background which sound like hyperventilating banshees. They themselves put it best on "Technicolor": "Doesn't make much sense."

Sometimes the lackadaisical precision of music that is intentionally spontaneous-sounding—where hours and hours of painstaking work went into creating that perfectly, thoughtfully messy sound ("Why, yes, we really just walked into the studio and played that song just like that, in one take: done!")—actually succeeds. Just listen to the way Bowers and Chapman creak out the chorus on "Man at Arms." This kind of nonchalance is the result of skilled musicians who know just how to make it all sound so relaxed and easy.

More by Annie Holub

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