Thursday, May 27, 2010
Album review: When We Were Wild by The Orbans
The sound is comfortable and intrinsically personal, which makes accessible for just about everyone.
A friend once said there are only two types of music in existence: local and worldwide; and every band, this side of the Trinity River or not, resides in one of those two categories. Sometimes it’s easy to spot the local yokels – the ones who will, in spite of themselves, stay put in their hometown. And then there are others you know will tour the world several times over; they hold a key enigmatic ingredient that makes their sound wholly universal. The Orbans, perhaps, are a rare breed that inhabits both.
They are a bionic band made of equal parts folk, roots rock, country, and ‘60s pop, who are as down-home as their songs are epic. The Orbans’ sound isn’t necessarily alt-country, but a reflection of it, in a symbiotic relationship with Dylan-style songwriting and clean, tight arrangements.
When We Were Wild, as a whole, is rooted in simplified and catchy melodies, with layers of twangy guitar licks, gospel organ, zippy psychedelic synth, and classic harmonies that ring of Beach Boys sentiment. Peter Black’s soothing baritone is audible Nyquil, a gentle sedative that verges on mopey but leaves a healthier, energized aura in its wake.
Early in the album, “Don’t Lose Yourself” is one highlight of many, with a whimsical swing tempo, ragtime keys, and a sleepy slide guitar to complement Black’s melancholy vocals. This song is best heard with car windows rolled down and an arm swaying in the warm wind. It’s a solid representation of the album and completely radio-ready.
“Were Her” is also another album favorite. Its love-lost lyrics are no match for the gleeful organ pinging, spacey synth and Petty-esque guitar candor. Black’s lyrical style in this song as in others is elegantly distant and lovelorn, like he’s talking to a girlfriend, not in a tangible sense, but the ghost of someone long gone. Black’s voice is sturdy and earthy, but his pleads ring of a certain emotional fragility.
As the record progresses, “Darlin My Dreams” is the album standout gem. It has a quiet acoustic beginning that’s reminiscent of Pete Yorn tunage. Then it builds to an ethereal clamor of spaghetti western warbles, only to fade out into a deft echo of Black crooning “So I’m drinkin coffee, guzzling tea and waiting for that sunrise / That cold sunrise …”
The Orbans teeter on a thin line between country and indie rock. They tip-toe on stepping stones of neo-folk renderings, pretty pop melodies, and sentimental versus. The sound is comfortable and intrinsically personal, which makes it relatable and accessible for just about everyone. Produced by Adam Lasus (Clap Your Hands Say Yeah, Yo La Tengo), When We Were Wild is just gritty enough to appeal to radio naysayers, but is mainstream apparent.
Catch them live at their album release June 18 at Lola’s on 6th in Fort Worth.