The history of pop music is stacked to the rafters with bands who made a great debut album, then faltered precipitously on their second. Some of the pitfalls are trying to do the exact same thing with diminishing returns, trying something too different and losing the plot, rushing the process, or taking too long. Basically, making a successful second album is about as easy as crossing a busy freeway while blindfolded. The Orielles' first album, Silver Dollar Moment, was nothing short of astonishing as a group of British teens made the best album of the '90s a couple decades too late, full of loose, baggy dance grooves, breathtaking melodies, cheerfully innocent vocals, and instrumental prowess that belied their collective youth, the album presented a high bar to clear afterward. The good news for anyone hoping that the band wasn't just a flash-in-the-pan is that while 2020's Disco Volador doesn't quite top the brilliance of their debut, it does come oh-so-very close. The core trio added a keyboard player to their guitar-bass-drums lineup, added new influences (Turkish psych, Italian film music) to their already full plate, tightened up the grooves and got a little weirder, too. Some of the wide-eyed, slightly ramshackle charm of the debut is lost thanks to how put together and punchy Disco Volador sounds: the band and producer Marta Salogni get a sound that is bass heavy, insistent, and built for inclusive dancefloors. Tracks like the Afro-pop-inspired "Bobbi's Second World" or the "Come Down on Jupiter" have a serious kick that compels the lower extremities to move, and more than enough sonic power to fill a room. The pumped-up sound doesn't overpower the yearning sweetness of the vocals, the obscure wit of the lyrics, or the cute touches they add to the arrangements (like the sound effects on "Bobbi's," the spoken word on "Whilst the Flowers Look," or the wacky percussion on "Rapid i"). If anything, the small leap in the band's instrumental skills and production values helps the songs take flight and soar higher than before. The band throw idea after idea into the mix and are able to pull them off each time, whether it's a melancholy, soft rock ballad like "Memoirs of Miso," the percolating disco on "Space Samba (Disco Volador Theme)," or the expansive indie dance jams that are almost impossible to pin down ("7th Dynamic Goo"). It's another thrilling album that's full of surprises, packed with compelling songs that prove the band didn't just get lucky on their debut. These kids know exactly what they want to do, and they have the skills and imagination to make it work like an improbable magic trick. Which is what a band needs to beat the sophomore slump as decisively as they do here.
AllMusic Review by Tim Sendra