September 04, 2005

California Oranges "Souvenirs"

What is it with indie-pop bands ditching the twee and making really, really glossy, radio friendly pop? It's been happening quite a bit lately, it seems--the most notable one being The Orange Peels--and I've gotta say, this is a trend I like. Well, count California Oranges in with this latest trend, and let's just say that this is a welcome thing, because their third album, Souvenirs, is a wonderfully succinct treasure chest of pop goodness. Why should you expect any less from them? Considering that frontman John Conley led the legendary pop band Holiday Flyer, it's understandable why the band sounds like a group of people who are experts at making sweet pop music

Souvenirs starts with the instantly catchy "Three Orange Tigers," a song that sounds like a more twee Imperial Teen, accentuated with great boy/girl vocals, loud, crunchy guitars and some extremely catchy synth lines. While the lyrics might be a little too cutesy for my tastes, it's hard to deny the song's overall power. That initial power never ceases; in fact, Souvenirs grows stronger. Whether it's the hard-rocking (and I say hard with absolutely no trace of irony) "Run Away," "Next Season," or "Racing Here," or it's the sweet pop of "Falling Back" or "Time You Spend," Souvenirs never falls guilty to the indie-pop trappings of being too twee or too wimpy. Unlike previous records, vocalist Verna Brock's voice is never overwhelmed by the music behind her, with each song having a nice balance between vocals and instruments. Each song is glossed with a nice pop sheen, clearly indicating that a lot of love and care went into making this record sound awesome. Thankfully, that bold gambit worked, and the results are simply wonderful.

Souvenirs is a great-sounding record, and it has an oddly out-of-date feel. It sounds like a record that should have been released ten years ago, back when bands like Letters to Cleo, Eve's Plum, The Posies and Weezer ruled the airwaves. Still, it's a great pleasure now, and it's an album that's definitely worth your time.

--Joseph Kyle

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