Reaching for Something Bigger – a review of “Sun Moon” by The Orange Peels

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So I’ve been trying to catch-up on some album reviews, lately. There is so much I’ve listened to these past several months but shared only a few. Sometimes, just deciding where to start is enough of a stumbling block to keep me from the task. So, it’s nice when a little divine intervention helps me with the process.

As I sat this morning folding laundry (the excitement never stops around the Morris house), I was delightfully drawn to the grey skies outside. We haven’t had a lot of cool, cloudy days yet this fall, and I like cool, cloudy days. So dreariness actually energized me a little. It wasn’t long after that I realized I had a song running through my head. I didn’t immediately identify it, but it was obviously familiar and I liked it.

“It’s a grey, na-na-na.  The clouds won’t make me na-na-na-na-na…….look my way, Lord I pray”. 

After a few minutes of mostly subconscious singing and humming, I asked myself (probably out loud) “What is that song I’m sort of singing?”

And with that, I knew which album I would write about today.  The completely wonderful Sun Moon by The Orange Peels.

I’ve expressed my love of The Orange Peels and the music of their front-man, Allen Clapp, in previous posts (read Allen Clapp and His Orchestra here).  They are groovy.  And I don’t throw that word around casually.

As is common with previous efforts from The Orange Peels, there is a familiarity to the music of Sun Moon.  Not an “I’ve heard that before” familiarity.  Rather, it comes from a kind of emotional connection that they tap into with me.  It feels like home.  It conveys nostalgia without being dated or cliché.  It’s dreamy.  It rocks.  It inspires.  It soothes.  And it aspires to be something more than just another pop record.  It suggest something bigger.

Sun Moon starts off with two minutes of Big Star crunch that saturates “The Words Don’t Work”, a song about someone who seems stuck between the need to apologize and the realization that his words aren’t going to do the job.  Might even make it worse.  From there, we move on to “Your New Heroes”, a song about letting go of the stranglehold technology has on us and reconnecting to something natural and real.

“Turned off the screen.  Turned off the phone.  I was alive.  I was alone.  Moving out beyond the race, I felt the silence.  I felt the space….I saw the bird.  I heard the tree.  It was a little eternity”.

Again, something bigger.

For me, the sentiment of these first two songs capture my experience with Sun Moon.  There is a lyrical irrelevance to much of the listen.  I don’t mean the words don’t matter, as suggested in the opening track –  the album is lyrically strong.  The message of transition and time passing is prevalent here, something this 45 year-old completely gets.   But it’s the place the musicians take us to that is so wonderful and communicative, at some point the words stop being necessary.  Allen Clapp, Jill Pries, John Moremen, and Gabriel Coan have made a soul-connection.  It’s like a little piece of eternity, as suggested in “Your New Heroes”.  I’m so drawn to the composition of this record, in fact, that the song which has become my favorite on the collection is the instrumental “Theme From Sun Moon”.  It says more with its beautifully lush melody and warmly effusive lead guitar than any lyrics could.

The Orange Peels are masters of the pop-hook.  And there are plenty of those here, which will make listening to this in the background of your day easy end enjoyable.  But you will be better served to stop and engage.  That’s where the ebb and flow of Sun Moon, like the movement of the ocean’s tide, are really felt.  That’s where the sonic subtleties make their impact.  It shouldn’t be quickly bought and digested like a Big Mac.  Slow down.  Savor it.  Put away your distractions.  Breathe in the experience of it, like breathing in the experience of a long day at the beach, listening to the movement of the waves, becoming aware of how the breeze contours to your body, and how the sun’s arc subtly shifts the beauty of the landscape until it finally trades places with the moon, creating an altogether new awareness of this place you’ve just spent the entire day getting to know.

Somewhere in that day at the beach is my experience with Sun Moon.    From the power-pop crunch of the opening track, to the soaring three-song arc of “Grey Holiday (the song I was sing-humming earlier in the day), “Aether Tide”, and “Watch Her Fly”, to the sprawling yearning of the closing “Yonder” (which seems to sum up all of the musical elements of Sun Moon), The Orange Peels have reached for something bigger and find themselves grasping it.  It was a big part of my summer soundtrack and it’s moving seamlessly into the fall rotation.  Because this is not simply a summer album.  It’s something bigger.


~ by themattmorrisshow on October 25, 2013.

One Response to “Reaching for Something Bigger – a review of “Sun Moon” by The Orange Peels”

  1. […] 2.  The Orange Peels – Sun Moon   I’ve loved The Orange Peels for a while now, but this is easily their most complete album.  More than just a collection of pop songs, Sun Moon takes us on a journey of self-awareness set to a tasty pop soundtrack.  In fact, the album sounds like a soundtrack to a movie that hasn’t yet been made, with the instrumental “Theme From Sun Moon” standing tallest.  I wrote much more about the album here. […]

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