The members of Halifax, U.K. trio the Orielles weren't born when the baggy movement was sweeping the music scene, but that doesn't stop them from sounding like the best baggy band that never was. With a happily loose rhythm section, alternately shimmering and biting guitar, groovy keyboards, and songs that bob and weave like flyweight boxers, the sound they get on their debut album, Silver Dollar Moment, is fully formed and more impressively together than any baggy band bar the Stone Roses at their best. Every song here makes the Farm sound like Dumpy's Rusty Nuts and Happy Mondays like the second-rate prog band they often impersonated. The trio plays with a cheerful glee that lifts the songs high into the air and takes the listener along for the giddy ride. What they bring to the baggy party -- along with their finesse and songwriting skills -- is one important alteration. The songs are sung by bassist Esmé Dee Hand-Halford in a decidedly non-ladcentric fashion; her spirited tones are closer to the Revillos or Altered Images than they are to the mumblings of the guy in Northside. Her light touch is echoed by the nimble guitar playing of Henry Carlyle Wade, whose jangling arpeggios and oft-phased leads dance around the melodies like drunken birds, tilting and cavorting joyfully a little like both Orange Juice guitarists at once or John Squire minus the Hendrix fixation. The record kicks off with the charmingly funky "Mango," which starts quiet then bursts into a breezily sunny chorus, and doesn't stop being a delight until the final notes fade away. There are songs that glide gracefully ("Old Stuff New Glass") next to songs that have a little bit of punk rock bite ("Let Your Dogtooth Grow") and indie pop bounce ("I Only Bought It for the Bottle"), and lilting midtempo dream pop ("48 Percent") nestling happily next to long-form disco-meets-Afro-pop jams like "Blue Suitcase (Disco Wrist)." The band also manages to pull off a feat that bands twice their age have trouble with: writing a convincing waltz tempo ballad ("Liminal Spaces") that doesn't lull everyone to sleep. Each song is a perfectly constructed sonic treat, with the band and producer Marta Salongi never adding too much to the arrangements while still slipping in interesting little bits like synth drums, digitally warped guitars, and vocal harmonies here and there to keep listeners on their toes and dancing. It may have taken roughly 30 years, but someone finally made an album that truly captures the blend of dance grooves, indie songcraft, and blissful happiness that so many of the original wave of baggy bands aimed for and missed. The Orielles put the pieces together like master craftspeople while still playing and singing with the carefree energy of youth. Silver Dollar Moment is a stunning debut, and if it doesn't quite reinvent the wheel the way that The Stone Roses did, it does have a uniquely sweet spirit and lighthearted beauty all its own.
Silver Dollar Moment Review
by Tim Sendra