Adrian Orange has been recording and touring over the last several years, mostly under the moniker Thanksgiving. He is also the co-founder of Portland, Oregon's Marriage Records. During that time, he has gathered a considerable following among the indie-knowledgable, both amateur and professional. (This level of experience and appreciation is especially surprising when you find out he's only recently entered his twenties.)
Now some of the professionals (and presumably a few of the amateurs) have congregated to help Orange on his first album for K Records, humorously titled
Adrian Orange and Her Band. The album was produced by Phil Elverum of
The Microphones and
Mount Eerie (Elverum is one of Orange's most vocal fans), along with
Calvin Johnson and Nicholas Zwart.
With a total of seventeen guests — most of whom are multi-instrumentalists — this album is mainly about the music (which is a good thing, for a reason I will get to later). And there's a lot of music here. All told, there are six percussionists, five drummers, four organists, and at least one player for each of the following: piano, cornet, trumpet, trombone, alto and tenor saxes, clarinet, and of course bass and guitar (the latter duties taken up entirely by Orange himself).
The blending of all these sounds (not always in the most melodious ways, if always interesting) reminded me of Karl Blau's album
Beneath Waves, one of the better albums of 2006 (though Blau managed to make those sounds mostly on his own). And if
Adrian Orange and Her Band were an instrumental album, I would recommend it highly — if more to jazz aficionados than to pop fans.
Sadly, the major downfall of
Adrian Orange and Her Band is Orange himself. Put bluntly, Orange can't sing. Worse still, he doesn't even seem to be trying. His vocalizations are all passion with little direction and, presumably, no training. Sadly, the lyrics are not a redeeming quality, either: the worst kind of high school literary magazine poetry. All these flaws come to a sharp point in "A Flower's Is Mine" — definitely the worst "song" I have heard in some time.
Experienced by himself, particularly on some of his other Thanksgiving albums, his shortcomings are tolerable — especially if you're used to the "lo-fi" stylings of this brand of modern singer-songwriters. But, given the very able support from Elverum, Johnson, and company on
Adrian Orange and Her Band, Orange actually manages to detract from the proceedings, resulting in an album that would have been improved by his absence.
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