There is a certain amount of genius needed to make the kind of music Brian King does under the moniker Oranjuly. Lucky for us, he has enough and then some. On this self-titled debut, Brian not only wrote all the songs, but played all the instruments and, I assume, had band meetings that produced tension and led to band breakups and eventual reunions.
I wasn’t sure what to expect when Brian emailed me about his project. He’d heard of our site through the great Michael J Epstein Memorial Library piece we did. He’s a Bostonian like MJE (as far as I’m concerned everyone from Mass is a Bostonian), and he liked the piece and wanted to see what we thought of his material. Usually when this email comes it’s a mixed blessing: Yay! Someone read what I wrote. BUT, what if their music isn’t as good? Fortunately that isn’t a problem I ran into with Oranjuly.
The album kicks off with a great piece of nostalgia. The first part of the song is very reminiscent of a Beach Boys song, then it gets harder-a bit grungy even. Eventually it turns into a Turtles-esque pop ballad that tests King’s vocal range (a test he passes with flying colors). “Her Camera” is a great lead track choice. The influences that you hear throughout the song let you know where this musical journey could go.
I was reading about the band, trying to familiarize myself with where the sounds came from, and I noticed that there were some references to Weezer sprinkled around. I can definitely see where that comes from, but I don’t agree with it one hundred percent. I think a better contemporary comparison would be a band like The Foo Fighters. Weezer is way too into Weezer for their own good. Oranjuly doesn’t have that kind of hubris or self-indulgent attitude toward the music or their audience. They’re just having fun making great music. Keep in mind when I say Foo Fighters, I mean the guys that made “Big Me,” not the guys who made “Pretender.”
I really like Brian’s voice. It reaches all over the place-one of those voices that you’ve never heard before but sounds completely familiar. He’d be great matched up with a female like She & Him or Mark Lanegan and Isobel Campbell. He definitely has the ability to play off himself when recording, but that’s hard to recreate live. Having never seen the band perform, I don’t know. Maybe he does bring in another vocalist. His voice on “The Coldest Summer” is especially fantastic.
The songwriting on the record reminds me alot of Ben Folds when he’s being earnest (“The Luckiest” would be a good example). There isn’t anything terribly complex going on, much like the early Beatles records-basic instruments, sometimes a little orchestration. It allows the listener to really hear and take in the lyrics, which too often these days get lost.
The song “207 Days” could’ve been written by Burt Bacharach or BJ Ryan. It’s a really sweet song about lost love that features a great little line: “Rose-colored glasses couldn’t keep her from feeling blue.” Not the most mind-blowing lyric of all-time, but in the context of the song and the way it’s delivered, it gets me every time.
Oranjuly is currently working on the follow-up to this release and is trying to keep some money flowing so they can get it made. So, by all means, go pick up this record. I’ve been enjoying it quite a bit over the past couple weeks. I even allowed this to seep into the 20 hours a week I dedicate to listening to Okkervil River, so you KNOW it must be good!