Fronted by song writer, arranger and multi-instrumentalist Brian E King, Oranjuly’s brand of power pop is one which instantly sounds familiar. Packaged in a sleeve which looks like a Fuzzy Felts recreation of a 1970s kitchen, Oranjuly’s debut album’s influences may all be pieces from a musical past, but like so much great power pop, the end result is timeless – and thanks to great song writing, the album is one which stands up to repeated listening and gets better with every play.
After a gentle intro, the opening rock chords of ‘Her Camera’ would suggest that this debut is noisier than it turns out to be, with its wall of guitars (using a tone which very much recalls ‘Flagpole Sitta’ by Harvey Danger) but this soon falls aside, making way for stabbing keyboards, dreamy vocals and bass/drum parts which cheekily give to the nod to The Beach Boys, specifically ‘God Only Knows’. The Brian Wilson fixation becomes more obvious during a really tight vocal interlude. Keen to grab your attention, the second half of the song manages to combine all of these elements, which creates something a little hard to take in at first, but it works well as a whole. They swiftly follow this with ‘Mrs. G’, which is much more user-friendly. Again, there are lavish harmonies and a bit of a kitchen-sink approach to the arranging, but the stabbing keyboards and bittersweet Ben Folds-esque lyric should be enough to win you over.
‘Personal Ads’ marks a return to a more guitar driven style rock/pop. The verses are full of vocal harmonies overlaid with twinkling keyboard noises, but it’s the simple hook on its noisier chorus which is bound to stick in your head. Let’s just say someone here is a fan of Weezer! My personal preferences lean towards the album’s softer 10cc and Badfinger styled material, but this is still hugely enjoyable. If you’re also someone who favours the seventies style of power pop, ‘South Carolina’ will please you with its McCartney/Wings inspired rumpty-tumpty rhythms. After an acoustic beginning and gentle vocal, a Ringo-esque drum fill leads the band in, including a bass line which, to begin with, sounds equally simple. As the song progresses, the bass line features a couple of great fills and the mid-section features an effective tack piano. The McCartney-isms here would have no doubt pleased the Jellyfish chaps too – though undoubtledly, they would have struggled to keep the arrangement so straightforward…
‘I Could Break Your Heart’ features one of the album’s best arrangements. The chorus here is pure bubblegum goodness, with a slightly sixties vibe reminiscent of Mark Bacino. Again, you’ll find harmony vocals in abundance, but one of its best features is a brief Matthew Sweet style guitar solo, which makes top use of multi-tracked guitars. ‘The Coldest Summer’ has verses which utilise some rather melancholy harmonies – again evoking so much great seventies pop – which musically, is incredibly strong, with flourishes of slide guitar, bell noises and handclaps. Throw in some subtle electric piano and twin guitar harmonies and – clocking in just shy of three minutes – you have a masterpiece. While most power pop provides a soundtrack for summer days, there’s always something mesmerizing about those moments tinged with sadness, especially when they are so well crafted.
Despite its title, ‘Hiroshige’s Japan’ has a very wistful English psych-pop quality. This harpsichord and brass number could have been from 1968. While it has rhythmic similarities to The Beatles’ ‘Blackbird’, the focus on harpsichord makes it hard not to think about the deeply sad ‘A Rose For Emily’, from The Zombies classic ‘Odessey and Oracle’. While the harpsichord is the featured instrument here, additional trumpet work adds some great atmosphere.
Like Jellyfish before them, these guys have a gift for arranging that, when done well, is always a pleasure for the listener. …And while Oranjuly wear each of their influences on their collective sleeves, this self-titled album is none the worse for it. With ten songs and no duds, this debut ranks alongside Owsley’s self-titled disc in terms of great power pop debuts. You owe it to yourselves to check it out.
Excellent review of an excellent record!