The Orielles - Silver Dollar Moment

by Mark Moody Rating:9 Release Date:2018-02-16
The Orielles - Silver Dollar Moment
The Orielles - Silver Dollar Moment

It’s easy to get jaded eternally looking for the next “important” band to come along or waiting for the album that speaks the truth everyone is hungering for in times of worldwide crisis (aren’t we always in that mode?) when sometimes all we need is to forget about that and have a good time.  Or if not too sappy, using the corollary to John Lennon’s line about “life is what happens while we’re busy making other plans” - a band like The Orielles is what happens when you least expect it but need it most.  This sister duo, plus guitar slinger friend, seem blissfully unconcerned with the state of modern society, whacked out politicians, climate change and other ills of the day.  Who really needs those burdens when there are songs to be written about a drink that turns your teeth green or it being too damn sunny outside.  The album of the Summer of 2017 never arrived for me, so thankfully Halifax based The Orielles have delivered us an early gift of brightly colored pop tunes for the new year to blast away anything dreary hanging in the air.  Sisters Sidonie B. (drums) and Esmé Dee Hand-Halford (vocals/bass) along with Henry Wade (guitar) have released a few singles and EPs over the past several years but have obviously saved up a pocket full of gold nuggets for their debut LP, Silver Dollar Moment.  With two members still college age, a few points off their grade point averages could be excused for the obvious amount of practice and hard work that went into making this nearly note perfect debut.

The band runs us through a range of styles, playing all with equal aplomb, from throwback shimmery pop and funk of the late sixties and seventies to more modern dreamy noise pop with some jazzy flourishes thrown in for good measure.  Leadoff track ‘Mango’ starts like an updated, but just as breezy, intro taken from the chorus of The Association’s nearly forgotten ‘Windy’, but veers off into the band’s own brand of offbeat lyrical concerns.  Younger sister Esmé has a smartly tailored insouciance about her voice that only makes you want to understand their offbeat insider references that much more.  She can hardly stand to stay up late after only two Pabst Blue Ribbons at the club with the lure of mango juice in the morning being of much more interest.  Whatever “Nacho Nights at Sneaky Dee’s” involves you are going to want to be there, though you might end up the object of a future song as nothing is too mundane to go unnoticed in their narrative.  The “you had to be there” storytelling reminds me of part of what made Pavement so charming over their career - you had no idea what they were singing about, but it only made listening repeatedly that much more alluring.  Older sis keeps things revved up with a cheeky cowbell workout that endures as Wade’s energetic guitar work gives way to organ notes at the end.  Hearing an opening track with such a great languid energy on a debut long player, you have to ask can they keep that up over the course of a full album?  That would be a resounding “Yes” my friends.  

As we move on, ’Old Stuff, New Glass’ starts as a dreamy pop confection with spacey guitar licks and Esmé going on about “blessed indecision, unfettered ideals, strange visions” which could be the band’s mantra given the anything goes ethic.  Mid-song the crew goes into a funk breakdown on par with The Tom Tom Club’s “natural fun” with congas and funk guitar spiked by yips, yells and whistles.  Wade convincingly “plays that funky music white boy” again on the album’s closer with the classic James Brown chicken choking riffs and wah-wah effects battling it out with the sisters’ rock steady rhythm and Esmé’s sweetly cooed vocals.

In between we are treated to plenty of other great tracks from the gloriously sun dazed ‘Sunflower Seeds’, which may be the only track bordering on a love song, to the jangly guitar fuzz and “caught into a trap” chorus of ‘Henry’s Pocket’.  And towards the end of the album where lesser bands might fade, our heroes deliver a noisy slice of girl-group pop asking not to be left to fall asleep under the poisonous ‘Borrachero Tree’ and Wade gets his shining moment in a Sonic Youth drone wash that serves as candy wrapper around yet another perfect pop song in ‘Snaps’.  

But wait, there’s more, we haven’t even covered the singles and two standout tracks in an album full of standouts.  ‘Let Your Dogtooth Grow’ is one of the more straightforward tracks, but it’s hard to argue with its “instantly win you over” disposition in spite of its darker literary inspiration.  The band made a great decision in including last year’s single ‘I Only Bought it for the Bottle’ on their first full length.  The song is echoey retro bliss while once again Esmé puts in snippets of what seem everyday observations and turns it into a paean to some strange green liquor everyone is going to want to find.  Described as a bottle with a David Hockney inspired crayon drawing and an ambiguous colored liquid inside which turns out to be decidedly delicious she laments not purchasing more than one.  And the only song that may bear some political meaning at all in title alone, ’48 Percent’, which presumably is in reference to the Brexit vote but the band’s only commentary seems to be a cutely sung kiss-off of “bye, bye, bye”.  Politics are what they are, but the sun still comes up bright and the moon still rises and there is much to celebrate if all The Orielles ever do again is pen one more two and a half minute pop song as perfect as this one.                       

Most impressively, the band cranks out a dozen near perfect tracks over the course of 45 minutes, not skimping on what sometimes passes these days for full albums that could fit on a single side of wax.  I’m not quite as enamored with the ‘Liminal Spaces’ songs in the middle of the album, but that’s a very minor quibble given the strength of what they are surrounded by.  Frankly, this is exactly the type of album Alvvays would have killed to put out as their sophomore release last year - song for song Silver Dollar Moment blows Antisocialites away. You’re cheating yourself if you don’t put this album on repeat as soon as you can get your hands on it.  This is the type of debut that fans of new music keep turning over rocks hoping to find (last year’s Duncan Fellows’ debut was another fine one) and every now and then you do which makes the search worthwhile.  While the rest of us and all the other bands fret about our imminent extinction and who’s to blame for it, The Orielles might just save the world when no one’s looking.

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