The Orange Peels

Circling the Sun

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The Orange Peels' third album, 2005's Circling the Sun, is their best album yet, which is really saying something considering the strength of their brief discography thus far. Wonderfully sugar-coated with a melancholy heart, the record glides past on waves of gently strummed guitars, swooning Mellotron strings, and heavenly vocal harmonies. Main Peel Allen Clapp comes up with his finest batch of songs here, too. His melodies are crisp and clean, the lyrics perfectly wistful, and the arrangements never less than lovely. The record is mostly made up of midtempo ballads like the '70s AM radio-ready "So Right" and "Boy in Space," the dramatic and emotional "Long Cold Summer," and the wonderfully sweeping "How Green the Grass." The Orange Peels have really managed to get the most out of their sound, filling each nook with smooth sonic detail but never to the point of academic exercise, the emotion and depth flowing through the walls of sound at all times. Along with the songcraft and arrangements, credit has to go to Clapp's vocals, which have sometimes stood apart from the music in the past, as he doesn't have the usual breathy croon that goes with this kind of pop. Here, his voice blends perfectly with the musical backing and he sounds natural and soulful throughout. Not all of the record consists of ballads, though, as a few of tracks rock out quite credibly, including the singsongy "Circling the Sun," which sounds not a million miles from a classic Velvet Crush track, "I Don't Wanna Shine," which kicks up some country-rock dust (dig the harmonica solo and the soaring vocal harmonies), and the rollicking "What's It Like Mary Jo?" The only criticism of Circling the Sun might be that the record is too slick, but that is like saying ice cream is too cold or soda pop is too fizzy -- it sort of comes with the territory when you are talking about pop this sophisticated and adult. If you are looking for teenage kicks, you'll run screaming from Circling the Sun, but the album will definitely appeal to anyone who has been around the block a few times yet isn't ready to give up on pop's beauty and power. The Orange Peels have plenty of both, and Circling the Sun is their masterpiece.

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