Formed in the Bay Area in the mid-Nineties, The Orange Peels are still at it, bless them, keeping the torch of power pop burning brightly. Emerging from the Allen Clapp & His Orchestra configuration, the Peels' approach spans decades of thoughtfully constructed, vocal harmony-laced pop perfection: Sixties' Beatles and Beach Boys; the bittersweet crunch of Big Star and Badfinger, with hints of Supertramp's prog-pop, in the Seventies; and The Posies in the Nineties.
Sun Moon is the Peels' fifth album, and while all the familiar elements are still firmly in place — sturdily memorable tunes with crisp, clean, clanging/jangling guitars; clearly sung, heart-on-sleeve vocals; lush keyboards and cracking drums — there is change afoot. The whimsical, slightly mod-ish playfulness of its earlier albums has been supplanted by pensive earnestness — not that it's necessarily a bad thing, really. The sumptuously dense semi-dirge "The Words Don't Work" exudes a classy, Abbey Road-like majesty. The regal swirl of "Your New Heroes" wouldn't be out of place on an early-Seventies Yes or mid-Aughts Decemberists album, but for its gorgeous Hollies-like harmonies. On the downside, however, "Yonder," with its painfully melodramatic Where are you, my love? chorus, veers into territory best left to Styx and Celine Dion. Thankfully, it's not all an angst-fest — "Grey Holiday" and the suite-like "Travelling West/Sundowns" have some of that Burt Bacharach/Brian Wilson-tinged, California-dreaming breeziness of early Peels.
Yes, a more sober Orange Peels this time out, but the Orange Peels nonetheless. (Mystery Lawn Music/Minty Fresh)