Date Released: January 13, 2004
Label: Hidden Agenda
- Fieldtrip USA
- Sun A.M.
- Over My Head
- Crime o' the Moon
- Summer Kids Go
- Forever Changes Everything Now
- The Orange Billboard
- You Know How It Is
I'm skeptical of any band that lists My Bloody Valentine as an influence, but I came away from Moonbabies' follow-up to 2000's June and Novas pleasantly surprised... Tellingly, it was for reasons that have nothing to do with MBV: I couldn't really hear their influence at all, but instead something more along the lines of their synthgazing disciples M83, or the carefree electropop of The Postal Service, or even Kid A (song and album) on The Orange Billboard (song and album; coincidence?). Not that any of this is a bad thing: On the contrary, I found this to be a shimmering example of what happens when you produce an album with the ultimate dominating force being melody.
Of all the albums I've listened to since coming to WUSC, there's not a hint of regret when I say The Orange Billboard is an exemplary effort that puts virtually all indie-pop/rockers in the shade. There is nary a weak track here, and that makes them dangerous. The song that first ropes you in is, of course, the first track Fieldtrip USA. Things are light and sunny until the daringly melancholy third track, Over My Head. Even still, its gloomy disposition has that glimmer of hope and optimism even the best downbeat chords can't seem to eradicate. Crime o' the Moon is strong as well, but one of two eye-openers here is Jets, the only true Valentine-aping track. It is a gloriously full instrumental, riding in on a wavering keyboard line that ultimately builds into a Harrier jet-buzzing conclusion. It's fantastic without the vocal harmonies to balance it out, but it isn't even the best cut; that position must be held for the title track, the tenth of eleven songs (and for the majority of The Orange Billboard sessions, designated to be the first). It is a masterpiece in its 6:56, but whereas some songs that long tend to plod on to an unceremonious conclusion, Carina Johannsson and Ola Frick (who share vocal duties on numerous tracks) balance each other both melodically and musically with help from the studio and the kitchen sink to take the first 2/3 of the track and build it up dramatically from an above-average Kid A rendition to a superlative, self-destructive epic. You Know How It Is is a nice comedown and completely necessary after the scale and scope of The Orange Billboard.
Ultimately, this album once again goes to serve the point that the Swedish duo has a gift, and harmony is it. The Orange Billboard is, I think, not just a sleeper hit for 2004, but downright essential for anyone who likes a great album. Brilliant. - PMasterson