From the cymbal and drum intro of jaunty indie-pop opener ‘Mango’ to the last ghostly echoing “oooh oooh” of spacey dance-punk closer ‘Blue Suitcase (Disco Wrist)’, The Orielles have crafted a classic debut album. ‘Silver Dollar Moment’ is a delightful, jingling, jangling journey through diverse musical styles and diverting lyrical labyrinths.
The lyrics should be printed with footnotes to explain references to artist David Hockney, and to films by David Lynch, Danish director Nicolas Winding Refn and Greek movie-maker Yorgos Lanthimos (‘Dogtooth’). Among the lyrical nuggets, The Orielles ask us to consider “the scene about space, with a dinosaur head, and a picture of us, huh huh” in ‘Snaps’, while ‘Borrachero Tree’ has “I’m feeling chill, a city on prozac pills, clinically diagnosed, but your mind has nowhere to go”.
The prodigious songwriting talent and instrumental virtuosity on ‘Silver Dollar Moment’ are no surprise. In ‘Sugar Tastes Like Salt’ — courageously left off the album — The Orielles created one of the tracks of the decade: an epic, coiling, nine-minute voyage through genres and time signatures. Two subsequent singles — the scintillating ‘I Only Bought It For The Bottle’ and buzzing ‘Let Your Dogtooth Grow’ — are included and vie for attention with the other 10 tracks on the album.
‘Silver Dollar Moment’ is full of unexpected shifts, but the complexity comes easily. Catchy choruses, hooks and earworm moments abound (like “I see the sun in the sky and it hurts my eyes” on ‘48 Percent’). Bassist Esme Dee Hand-Halford takes on most of the vocals, with a pure and gentle voice hitting sweet honeyed highs as clever phrasing deals with the oddball lyrics. Sometimes she’s joined by other voices, like the deep male on ‘Dogtooth’, or when harmonies take on a hint of ’60s girl groups.
‘Old Stuff, New Glass’ was first released four years ago, when all three members of the group were teenagers as young as 14. It transitions effortlessly from a pop melody “discussing my impending doom” — with guitar by Henry Carlyle Wade that alternates between chopping and dreamy, accompanied by bopping bass — into a bongo break out, complete with whistles and yips. Esme’s juicy bass goes full on funk, twanging those fat notes, and Henry’s guitar takes a disco trip; it’s the sound of summer.
‘Sunflower Seeds’ is another Mediterranean-feeling song, switching pace seamlessly from lo-fi garage to trippy-pop, and building back to a wall of sound as Sidonie ‘Sid’ Hand-Halford (Esme’s older sister) drums with the melody — an art she deploys on many of the tracks. As John Maher from Buzzcocks tweeted regarding ‘Dogtooth’: “Top tune byThe Orielles. Drums are the icing on the cake — following the melody as well as the rhythm. Class!” There’s no better drumming compliment than one from the man who was inspired by Bo Diddley to create ‘Pulsebeat’.
— John Maher (@flyingmonkphoto) December 27, 2017
Sid’s percussive skill accompanies and enhances Esme’s thick bass and Henry’s exuberant guitar. He strums, riffs, picks buzzing notes, and uses feedback and discord, sometimes all at the same time. He revels in tone, texture and atmospherics; and heads off into outer space, psychedelic shapes, woozy soundscapes and funkadelic landscapes.
Keyboards add to the songs’ already sweeping dynamic range, coming in on ‘Mango’, ’48 Percent’, the country waltz of ‘Liminal Spaces’ and its timeless, jazzy postscript, ’Sound of Liminal Spaces’, where they hint at The Doors. Something like a harpsichord adds to the psychedelia of ‘Henry’s Pocket’ before a hippy flute floats into the mix. Piano, vibes and semi-acoustic guitar on ‘Borrachero Tree’ give off warmth and sunshine.
The energy and exuberance of ‘Silver Dollar Moment’, and its fearless experimentation with post-punk and dance genres, make it one of the best debuts of recent years.
‘Silver Dollar Moment’ is released on 16th February via Heavenly Recordings.
The album track list is:
02. ‘Old Stuff, New Glass’
03. ‘Sunflower Seeds’
04. ‘Let Your Dog Tooth Grow’
05. ‘Liminal Spaces’
06. ‘The Sound Of Liminal Spaces’
07. ‘I Only Bought It For The Bottle’
08. ‘Henry’s Pocket’
09. ’48 Percent’
10. ‘Borrachero Tree’
12. ‘Blue Suitcase (Disco Wrist)’