Nature’s Neighbor takes its indie-pop experimenting to new lengths on Otherside | Music Review | Chicago Reader

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Nature’s Neighbor takes its indie-pop experimenting to new lengths on Otherside

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Chicagoan Mike Walker has led Nature’s Neighbor for more than a decade, working with a revolving-door cast of musicians who’ve helped him realize his liquid indie-pop sound. But as much as the project is his brainchild, its new album, Otherside (Tai Duo Music), wouldn’t exist without longtime collaborator Terrill Mast. Early last April, Mast texted Walker from his home in Virginia about writing a song together, and despite Walker’s initial hesitance, the endeavor snowballed into a full-length record that demonstrates how far the two musicians’ intimate trust has taken them. Otherside delicately threads together an acoustic-guitar ballad (“Monday Morning Drive”), a near-ambient soundscape anchored by a voice memo from Nature’s Neighbor multi-instrumentalist Brandon Studer, who’s also an expectant father (“First Mother’s Day”), and a proggy indie-pop song built from what could be a sample of a marimba-style cell-phone ringtone (“Dreadnought”). Throughout the album, the group maintains a firm grip on its most experimental impulses, wrestling them into shapes that carefully draw listeners through every stylistic dip, switcheroo, and loop-the-loop. The way “Bold Move” expands its shrunken funk synth into a maximalist intergalactic melody suggests that Walker and Nature’s Neighbor have only begun to explore their creativity.   v

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