The Orange Peels

Trespassing

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Since they started putting out records in 1994, the Orange Peels have done nothing but release classic indie pop records that fold in influences from sources like sophisticated '80s U.K. pop, soft rock, synth pop, and '60s baroque pop. Under the direction of Allen Clapp, the group has never made anything less than great, and 2018's Trespassing is no exception. Working at the band's new home digs in the Northern California mountains, they've crafted something gleamingly smooth and huge-feeling, while still being as intimate as a heartbeat. Clapp and producer Bryan Hanna (who has worked with the band twice before) meld organic elements with synthetic ones, getting a sound that's both woodsy and scientific. It's the kind of album where they recorded drums outside under the trees, while at the same times dragging out all kinds of synths to splash across the songs like neon paint. One that balances string quartets with buzzing guitar solos (courtesy of John Moremen, who's adept enough at his chosen skill that Matthew Sweet poached him for his band). One that follows a jangling power pop gem ("All Our Tomorrows") with a minor-key '70s classic rock epic ("Mountains"), then a robotic synth pop tune that sounds like it could have been on a John Foxx album in 1986 ("Stealing Days"). It's the most diverse and surprising album that the band has made yet -- still, no matter the texture or feel of the song, the center is rich with the kind of understated emotion the group always brings thanks to Clapp's heartfelt vocals and the chewy goodness of the melodies. Every Orange Peels album has more than a few songs that come off like instant classic pop; this record is no different. The swaying midtempo "Running Away" is the should-be single, "Dawn Tree" flows and stings like a lost La's or Shack song, and the title track shows that the Orange Peels could be just about the best synth pop band around if they switched over to that full-time. That they could add that element to their sound and make it seem so fluid and right is yet more evidence of the kind of craftspeople they are. The Orange Peels have been functioning at the highest level for a long time, constantly evolving a little at a time while making music that is destined to bring joy to lovers of pure pop music. Trespassing is one of their best albums yet, balancing sound with vision and feelings with melody, all the while sounding as fresh as the day they began.

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