The Orange Billboard
n nearly every perfect song that the Moonbabies construct, and many of them are perfectly constructed, there is something that goes wrong. Take “Sun A.M.”, for example. Brilliant songwriting until the two major stumbling blocks: the guitar solo that falls in upon itself for inexplicable reasons, undercutting any momentum built up by the throbbing heartbeat of the song, and the shutting door sound that makes itself abundantly unwelcome during the chorus. It’s as though the group is baiting the listener to love them despite their faults. To choose messiness over tidiness. And, many times, we do.
Hailing from Sweden, the duo of Ola Frick and Carina Johansson have spent each of their two full length albums devoted to the process of producing sugary sweet pop confections. Their recipe has paid off handsomely on the second of these two releases, with The Orange Billboard—an album that plays out like a visit to Willie Wonka’s Chocolate Factory: too many sweets, too little time. Of course, in the album’s case, the 48 minute running time is a good thing, rather an a detriment.
What makes the group so strong? Essentially the group can be broken up into two main axes: acoustic and electronic. For the most part, the drums and bass serve as the electronic elements, providing the backdrop for the heavenly vocals of both Frick and Johansson and jangly acoustic guitars. In many cases synthesizers make their way into the mix, but only as accoutrement—never as the main attraction.
It’s a simple mixture, one that really makes no difference one way or the other. But the group utilizes these elements brilliantly, expertly placing them in the aforementioned arranged pieces of music. Indeed, in most cases, the duo knows exactly when a song has run its course and when to fade it out. It’s this uncanny ability to know when to push and when to leave the track alone that makes the group leaps and bounds ahead of its peers.
But just who are the group’s peers? It’s hard to say when so few groups are pursuing this clean, electronic indie-pop canon actively. The Notwist with better vocalists? Belle and Sebastian with a greater emphasis on electronics? The Postal Service with a girl? Who cares when it’s this good?