Photo by Megan Marzec
After their humble beginnings at Lewis & Clark College in Portland, OR, Dear Nora has stuck around for the long haul. The band has been producing its own brand of subdued folk-pop since 1999. In 2008, they disbanded. With the re-release of Mountain Rock last year, the fans latched back on and interest in Dear Nora was once again apparent. Ahead of their show on 3/2 at Park Church Co-Op, singer & guitarist Katy Davidson, also of Key Losers and Lloyd & Michael, shared a playlist of songs with AdHoc spanning her career as a musician.
"I made this playlist because I want to share a collection of my songs that are potentially lesser-known but are some of my personal favorites," Katie told AdHoc. "I’m including some stream-of-consciousness notes about each song—things that occur to me as I listen to them. I haven’t heard some of these songs in many, many years. All three of my bands are represented here."
"To The Earth! (Pt. 2)" by Key Losers on the album Adjust (2012)
I’m feeling the starkness of this one. A vocal meditation on three words. The delay is like you’re in a desert canyon or something. The lyrics could mean a few things: "To the earth," as in, "We’re headed towards Earth." "To the earth," as in, "We dedicate this one to you, Earth."
"The Freeway" by Dear Nora on the album There Is No Home (2006)
This song is directly inspired by the songwriting on the Beach Boys album Friends. Weird chord changes. Only bass and vocals. The motif of the freeway has been appearing in my songs for a long time. When you live in the West, when you grow up in the West, the freeway can be such an enormous presence in your life.
"Retired Description" by Key Losers on the album Adjust (2012)
When I get in a songwriting rut, I like to visit a Random Adjective-Noun combination generator website. Once, the phrase “Retired description” popped up, and it was not long after I stopped playing Dear Nora shows. Seemed like a good way to meditate on the headspace I was in at the time. I’m loving the minor 7th chords I used. Lots of Beach Boys chord inspiration back then.
"One Night In The Moment" by Dear Nora on the album Three States: Rarities 1997-2007 (2008)
The title of this song can be credited to my friend Amy Asbury; she once told me in an anecdote that she switched words when she was trying to say “one moment in the night.” I like this song, but I never recorded a “real” version of it (whatever that means), and that’s why it appears on the rarities compilation. But artist Stephen Steinbrink recorded a great version of it. Feels like a fully realized song. I like his version so much, we decided to play it live at our reunion shows in 2017.
"We Are a Program" by Key Losers on the album Adjust (2012)
This recording is inspired by Enya. There’s another recording on the Adjust album called “Of Arizona.” I wrote “We Are a Program” by flipping over the cassette in my Tascam recorder, muting the drum machine, and playing “Of Arizona” in reverse. So the melody wrote itself. The lyrics are about my experience working at a call center in suburban Portland for a spell. The alien environment of the break room. The weird alien looking people who stared into their phones. The beautiful trees outside.
"Unscene (But Heard)” by Dear Nora on the album The New Year (2002)
This song provides loose commentary on feeling awkward and not “cool,” but triumphing anyway. I think there used to be a queer dance night in Glasgow in the late '90s called "Unscene." That’s where the title came from. Chloe Scott, a flutist from San Francisco, shredded an absolutely beautiful improvisation on this song. Also, it’s evident here that I used to be able to sing in a much higher register.
"My Friend and I (for Gretchen)” by Dear Nora on the album There Is No Home (2006)
This song is about walking on the north side of Bernal Hill in San Francisco with once-Dear Nora bassist Gretchen Hildebran. It’s about all the swirling thoughts happening in my mind, mainly regarding big life transitions. The music is kinda inspired by '70s Joni Mitchell, and the lyrics are definitely inspired by Ed Askew’s narrative style on his album Viridian City. The guitar solo is inspired by Steely Dan.
"YCC (BHDYGH?)" by Lloyd & Michael on the album Just As God Made Us (2008)
Marianna Ritchey was one of the original members of Dear Nora. When I decided to stop performing under the name Dear Nora around 2007-ish, we started a new duo called Lloyd & Michael (those are our middle names). This is a strange piece we created using short snippets of songs we each had written, but weren’t sure what to do with. So we crammed them together. It’s pretty weird—I love it. There’s a Meredith Monk vibe, especially at the end.
"The Weight" by Dear Nora on the album Three States: Rarities 1997-2007 (2008)
I like these chord changes and vocal harmonies. "Unconditioned, weaker than anyone, you’ll find strength in food/ Unscheduled ways are welcome ways/ Leave me and carry on, the weight won’t get lighter.” The message is somewhat garbled, but there are some cool ideas there. Basically, this is an early 20s person figuring things out.
“Permanent" by Key Losers on the album California Lite (2007)
I wrote this about an alien spaceship landing in Joshua Tree National Park at dusk. Just kidding, but not really. Great band on this: Nicholas Krgovich on piano, Ely from LAKE on vocals, Andrew from LAKE on bass. Tom Filardo on guitar. Recorded by Phil Elverum in late 2010. I love the brutal guitar tone and the challenging outro.
"Weight of the World” by Key Losers on the album California Lite (2007)
This is the final song on the California Lite. Here’s what’s happening: I bought some 1.5-inch tape off eBay from a defunct studio in Chicago. This is the music that was on the tape when it arrived. This song was playing at this speed. Nothing was labeled, no band name or anything. This version was mixed live by Phil Elverum. I really enjoy the intensity Phil brought to this mix. This song brings a tear to my eye. "It will be alright. It will be alright.”
Did you know I produced an album for Dear Nora namesake Nora Beck in 2013? I also contributed harmonies on several of the songs. I love this album. Favorite song: “Cape Kiwanda."
Did you know there’s a Katy Davidson covers album called This is the Time For It? There are some great recordings on here. My favorite is Stephen Steinbrink's "One Night in the Moment”. I also especially love Nicholas Krgovich’s version of "Love Song For My Friends”.
Full Playlist available below.