erasing clouds

California Oranges, Souvenirs

reviewed by dave heaton

California Oranges has always packed more of a power-pop punch than its sibling Holiday Flyer, the now-defunct band that Oranges members John Conley,Verna Brock, and Katie Haley were all a part of. And that's especially true of their third album Souvenirs: it's tighter, tougher, louder, and faster than the previous two, and sounds fantastic for it. That's of course partly because of the songs, which are even catchier and more carefully crafted than before.

And the songs' sentiments and stories fit perfectly with the forward motion of so many of the songs. There's a song which mentions "the next season of my life"; that's a phrase that resonates for the album as a whole. Souvenirs is often concerned with finding that comfortable place in life, with making decisions about what to do or where to go next, with moving from one stage of your life to another (and sometimes then back to the first, as on the should-be hit "Falling Back"). The song's characters are perpetually running one direction or another, as we all often feel we are. This constant moving about can be exciting, but also tiring and confusing; while the songs express all of those feelings, and more, the music itself is nothing but riveting and exciting, whether it's moving quickly or has slowed down for a rest.

It's such a tightly wound album, yet at the same time so light and beautiful. The guitars ring out brashly but also offer nuance, and the three vocalists all sing with great sensitivity, while also perfectly insinuating the infectious melodies into our heads.

This 5-member version of California Oranges is a mighty beast, yet of course a gentle one. For all the pleasure I get out of the moments where they let the drums lead the whole band on a race (like on the opening 1-2 punch of "Three Orange Tigers" and "Good Luck Charm"), some of the best songs are the slower, more overtly emotional songs, like "Falling Back", "Almost Home", or "Time You Spend," which strikes a moving note of encouragement that should ring true for anyone. Perhaps it's because even those songs have a full, confident sound, one which helps to really drive the feelings inherent in the songs into your heart.

Souvenirs is a friendly pop album filled with human understanding on the inside and rock n' roll strength on the outside plus bright, fetching melodies. By toughening up their sound without making it any less sweet, they've made an album you can play loud and drive fast too, but which has melodies you can also sing softly to yourself. It's the perfect balance, and an album that's fun and emotional, energetic and pretty at the same time.


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