[MINIMALIST POP] Dear Nora fans, rejoice! Though this isn't a proper reunion of the amorphous, Portland-born indie project, it's as close as we're likely to come. A decade after the lo-fi pop outfit's sole permanent member, Katy Davidson, and co-founder Marianna Ritchey parted ways—geographically and musically—they reunited in Los Angeles through happenstance. Lloyd & Michael was born.
Old fans of Davidson's will find much to love on Lloyd & Michael's debut, Just as God Made Us (the unfortunate nebulous cover art notwithstanding). And newcomers will find even more, as the tight, lovely pop harmonies of Ritchey and Davidson (their voices move together like a set of rails) are even more charming upon first listen. True to form, Just as God Made Us is as minimal as it gets: The duo is as musically naked through the record as its members appear on the cover. Accompaniment—unaffected guitar, organ, percussion—is just that. Barely a moment goes by on the album when instruments come to the fore. The focal point, rather, is purely vocal, with Ritchey and Davidson loftily singing as if their voices were seated side by side on a slow-motion roller coaster. On "Recycle," they even come right out and say the words "harmony in abundance" before breaking into a soaring, Mates of State-style sing-along.
Instantly rewarding, the record's brightest gems show up within the first 10 minutes. On opening track "Towards a Dark Castle," an organ sets a hymnlike melody that Ritchey and Davidson's voices pick up and carry for the next six minutes—a cappella save for an odd, minutelong break of traditional, Guided by Voices-esque lo-fi indie rock. It's a bit jarring, but it sets listeners up for one of the most addicting and soothing songs I've heard this year, the following "A Real Time Here." Over just a guitar and hand drum, Ritchey and Davidson deliver one of the slyest (and longest) hooks ever written, resolving it in the honest, jointly sung: "Just trying to have a real time."
There are probably better places to have a real time than L.A., but, if anyone can pull it off, it's Ritchey and Davidson. The title Just as God Made Us fits perfectly. All it took was two voices and a knack for melody to give us one of the best records released this year.
Just as God Made Us