Hear First: Dear Nora’s human futures

Katy Davidson introduces the premiere of the “cult” band’s new record.

It’s probably odd — or possibly even pompous — to call oneself a cult artist, but it’s difficult to explain my songwriting career or my band Dear Nora in any other way. I/we have a small, passionate, and devoted fanbase. We don’t project any obvious visual or sonic cues that clearly connect us to any existing subcultures: freak folk, pop punk, twee, etc. People have tried to shove us into some of those boxes at various points during the last twenty-ish years, but we never fit. (I guess you can categorize us broadly as “indie” and that would be technically accurate, as I have run Dear Nora as an actual independent operation off and on since 1999.)

It gets even more complicated because at this point, Dear Nora appears to operate both as a “legacy” band and a contemporary band simultaneously. And the sound of our “legacy” recordings — the ones that 19-year-olds are currently discovering on Spotify and YouTube (which include recordings I made before they were born), and which are extremely lo-fi, rough hewn, upbeat, enthusiastic, and fun — are quite different than our contemporary recordings, which are still somewhat lo-fi, upbeat, and “fun,” but also have a very different character that feels more poetic, interested in social critique via daily observation, and interested in dabbling in disparate musical styles and emotions. So what’s the thread that binds all this together, and what’s the glue that connects the devoted fanbase? I think it’s the craft of songwriting itself, melody and harmony, and my (deadpan) jokes.

Here we are in 2022 and Orindal Records is releasing our fifth full-length album (sixth if you include The New Year EP, which wasn’t really an EP at all), human futures

I’m just gonna come right out and say it: This is the best one. 

Everyone can go ahead and disagree with me, and dig in their heels re: their sentimental attachment to Mountain Rock, Skulls Example, or the Three States compilation (and don’t get me wrong, I love those albums). But time will be the ultimate authority, and when we’re all old, and/or whenever our fanbase reaches middle age, which could take quite a while since the majority of them appear to be quite young (the analytics support this), or whenever we’re all dead and these recordings are basically forgotten, but then some esoteric reissue label in 2090 will discover them while sifting through the dusty corners of Spotify or whichever streaming service (or futuristic music-playing platform we haven’t thought of) is dominant then, that’s when people will agree with me. They will see that all the previous Dear Nora recordings were practice for this moment, for this album. This is the culmination of them all.

I know this to be true, because I’ve thought about what it would be like if human futures was my final statement — like, if I died tomorrow — would I feel like I’ve said what I want to say? And the answer would be yes. That’s not to say I won’t have more to say in the future. But right now, this feels good. This feels like exactly what I want to say about right now, exactly how I want to say it.

If you want to know what the album sounds like, here you go: 

Bruce Springsteen’s Nebraska smashed together with Karen Marks’ Cold Café.

But in case that’s not enough to go on, you’ll also find Joe and Donnie Emerson, Enya, James Blake, Pavement, Kim Gordon, Billy Bragg, The Roches, and Lou Reed here. There’s a nod to some of Joni Mitchell’s “Black Crow” lyrics on one of the songs — see if you can catch it. 

human futures is the most thematically and sonically cohesive of our albums; it has the most astute lyrics, with several threads weaving the songs together (and also to Skulls Example, which is the clear prequel to this album), and it features the infinitely creative and talented performances, arrangements, and co-writing of my collaborators Zach Burba, Greg Campanile, and Nicholas Krgovich. 

In fact, human futures was definitely the most collaborative of any of the Dear Nora albums ever, but it also — ironically or paradoxically — feels the most personal to me. 

Will people have the attention span to listen to it all the way through???

human futures is out this Friday, October 28, on Orindal Records. You can catch the band on tour this fall in these cities:

Oct 30: Berwyn, IL @ Fitzgerald’s (w/ Jill Whit, Moon Racer & Nicholas Krgovich)
Nov 1: Portland, ME @ SPACE
Nov 2: Burlington, VT @ Radio Bean
Nov 3: Cambridge, MA @ Lilypad
Nov 4: Providence, RI @ AS220
Nov 5: Greenfield, MA @ Ten Forward
Nov 7: Brooklyn, NY @ Baby’s All Right
Nov 9: Philadelphia, PA @ Johnny Brenda’s (w/ 2nd Grade)
Dec 4: Los Angeles, CA @ 2220 Arts
Dec 7: Portland, OR @ Doug Fir Lounge
Dec 9: Vancouver, BC @ Red Gate
Dec 10: Seattle, WA @ The Vera Project

(Photo Credit: Leslie Lechner)

Dear Nora is the recording project of Katy Davidson. Their latest record, human futures, is out October 28, 2022 via Orindal Records.

(Photo Credit: Leslie Lechner)