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AAA Music | 18 September 2019

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Orphan Boy – Popsong

| On 18, Jul 2010

Someone has been visited by the spirit of Ian Curtis. Orphan Boy’s ‘Popsong’ has a deceptively mainstream surface that suits its name, the indie rock sound we’re all too familiar these days dancing across a glassy veneer of more of the same with a regional accent affectation and that kind of melodic progression.

But beneath the glassy veneer, a much darker and deeper river flows. The haunting keyboards, the jangling guitars, and rambling percussion placed forwards in the mix, along with a deadpan yet passionate vocal delivery of a song saturated with borderline nihilistic melancholy, and this whole package wrapped up in an echo that makes the drums sound like a particularly musical stream train coming towards you from a long tunnel. The intro itself is a heartstopping moment of sonic wonder, drenched in the unspoken memory of too many rainy days in isolation, idly considering whether other people may be having a brighter vision of the present. The lyrics, both humorous and heartbreaking, tell the story of a band losing heart and losing their way in the face of the rest of the world.

It’s not quite doom-laden enough to mark it as a Joy Division knockoff, but that same quality of sound is there, an echoing sense of monochrome and valiant defeat. But for once modern indie rock has added life to something: the guitars have an added vitality, and the vocals are pitched higher than Curtis, creating something ethereal as opposed to deathly serious. Given the recent rise of interest in what has recently come to be termed “coldwave”, meaning that sound similar to Joy Division/The Cure circa ‘Seventeen Seconds’, Orphan Boy’s articulate, melancholy rock could be given the opportunity to thrive that it deserves.

Someone has been visited by the spirit of Ian Curtis. Orphan Boy’s ‘Popsong’ has a deceptively mainstream surface that suits its name, the indie rock sound we’re all too familiar these days dancing across a glassy veneer of more of the same with a regional accent affectation and that kind of melodic progression.

But beneath the glassy veneer, a much darker and deeper river flows. The haunting keyboards, the jangling guitars, and rambling percussion placed forwards in the mix, along with a deadpan yet passionate vocal delivery of a song saturated with borderline nihilistic melancholy, and this whole package wrapped up in an echo that makes the drums sound like a particularly musical stream train coming towards you from a long tunnel. The intro itself is a heartstopping moment of sonic wonder, drenched in the unspoken memory of too many rainy days in isolation, idly considering whether other people may be having a brighter vision of the present. The lyrics, both humorous and heartbreaking, tell the story of a band losing heart and losing their way in the face of the rest of the world.

It’s not quite doom-laden enough to mark it as a Joy Division knockoff, but that same quality of sound is there, an echoing sense of monochrome and valiant defeat. But for once modern indie rock has added life to something: the guitars have an added vitality, and the vocals are pitched higher than Curtis, creating something ethereal as opposed to deathly serious. Given the recent rise of interest in what has recently come to be termed “coldwave”, meaning that sound similar to Joy Division/The Cure circa ‘Seventeen Seconds’, Orphan Boy’s articulate, melancholy rock could be given the opportunity to thrive that it deserves.

Author: Katie H-Halinski