The third album by Indiana's Mock Orange shows a rather dramatic leap in accomplishment from their previous two. "Emo," whatever that tag actually means, is the genre into which Nines & Sixes is placed, but what that tag has traditionally meant is music thick with youthful passion and an uncanny knack for inspiring introspection as well as an intensity that is equal parts lushness and driving. And Mock Orange certainly embrace those qualities with moxie. Sunny Day Real Estate is the obvious primary template here, and the assimilation is complete, yet avoids sounding used, and, in fact, is entirely scintillating in many of the same ways that band is. The playing is aggressively beautiful and propulsive while somehow seeming fragile, able to intricately penetrate small crevices as well as scale mountains. The soundscape aches and seethes and envelopes. Of course, Jeremy Enigk's vocals are impossible to copy, and Mock Orange doesn't try, but the band members do come up with their own emotionally drenched, melodically scaling harmonies that at least equal their influence. The trick of this is that Mock Orange doesn't traffic in lyrics and sentiments that are too painfully emotional/personal to listen to (another general quality of emo), and that allows the listener more access into the music and more leeway once inside it while still retaining the feeling that something delicate is being touched internally, even when the lyrics are obscured. In fact, you could ignore the lyrics and still take a sense of passionate yearning from the music. Songs such as "Does It Show," "Window Shopping," and "Paper" are expressive without having to nudge the listener too much with words, to the point that the vocals simply sound like another instrument contributing to rather than conveying the emotional meat of the songs. By the end, the album is so relentless that it runs the risk of exhausting a listener. Even the slower, prettier moments, such as "Goodnight Raddick" with its chiming guitar and cello, is an intense experience. So although the album is wholly, unconditionally beautiful, it may be necessary to take in by the spoonful.
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AllMusic Review by Stanton Swihart