Not to be confused with the Oranges Band, Oranger, or Orange Juice for that matter, Sacramento’s California Oranges is a band whose style fits their name just as well as the aforementioned. Edwyn Collins mentioned picking the name Orange Juice because they wanted their own style of sunny pop to be distinguished as much as possible from the rising sound of punk at the time. The same can be said for California Oranges, their sunny power pop style, and the distance between it and the rising sound of eclectic angular art rock.
While critics are fawning over such ‘different’ rock bands as Clap Your Hands Say Yeah, Arcade Fire and Broken Social Scene, myself among them, and by the way, we’re all right, some might make the mistake of unconsciously setting the bar for other bands in that far part of left field where the above bands reside stylistically. Unfortunately, that might be the reason that most fans might not pick up such a wonderfully put together power pop record such as Souvenirs, even though they really should.
The alternating male female vocals, crisp melodic guitars, ’80s-esque basslines, harmonic backgrounds, and overall love of pop music make Souvenirs one of the most enjoyable straightforward pop records of the year. Songs like “Knives on the Table” can stand alongside the best of songs by the Posies as it does its best to mimic Big Star. “Next Season” has its roots not only in the fresh pop of the early ’90s (read: Magnapop, Velocity Girl, etc.), but also in some of the hit radio rock of the ’80s such as Quarterflash (I hear little echoes of the great “Harden My Heart” in this one, with the fear that I am now dating myself). There is no one obvious single on Souvenirs and that’s not a bad thing. Each song has the same consistent strength, drive and energy making for a thoroughly enjoyable listening experience.
No, California Oranges are not from the ‘O.C.’, and one might get visions of the cover of No Doubt’s Tragic Kingdom upon hearing the moniker, but think a little deeper about the name. Northern California has been the source of a lot of good music lately, and the C.O. is the latest to impress. If you need to be convinced, just take a listen to either “Racing Here” or “Don’t Ask Why” to get a nice sample of the pop majesty within. Their sales might not be giving the New Pornographers a run for their money, (maybe it’s that exotic Canadian thing), but don’t let that dissuade you. Power pop has rarely sounded as sweet.