Moonbabies – The Orange Billboard

Moonbabies
The Orange Billboard

Although it’s been a few years now since Moonbabies’ debut album, June and Novas, took me completely by surprise, the few teases in between – an EP, a fine 7″, held me over for this, the band’s sophomore album The Orange Billboard. And the Swedish duo of Ola and Carina has outdone itself, building on a startlingly good album with one that’s even better, perhaps one of the best pop albums I’ve heard in quite some time.
The fact that The Orange Billboard is Moonbabies’ first for Hidden Agenda should come as no surprise, as that label has virtually cornered the market on Swedish pop, from Soundtrack of Our Lives to The Wannadies. Still, The Orange Billboard takes pop music to another layer. Although just two musicians are at the core of this project, these two create enough sound and compliment it with such perfect production that they make the process seem effortless, making pop that’s significantly universal.
While many bands are playing modern indie-pop with a knowing debt to the stalwarts – Beatles, Beach Boys, etc. – Moonbabies effortlessly mix their influences, combining bits of that timeless pop with Sonic Youth-esque rock, keyboard-driven pop, and more modern indie rock. Few can combine such elements as well, and if The Orange Billboard feels a bit lighter in tone than June and Novas, the songs are tighter, catchier, and stronger than ever.
The songs run the gambit from the mournful, piano-led ballad “Over My Head” to the light, poppy “Crime o’ the Moon,” which will have you bopping along with the organ line. The band can rock, as the thin layer of distortion and grungy guitars beneath the shimmering glaze of “Fieldtrip USA,” and the faster-paced guitar-driven “Jets” show. And other songs, like “Sun A.M.,” showcase light, keyboard-driven pop, while the closer, “You Know How it Is,” is virtually shoegazer bliss of guitars and vocals, shimmering and lush.
The best songs here defy simple labels. “Summer Kids Go” is pure summery bliss, with beautiful vocals, light rhythm, layers of guitars and chiming keys, and a soothing pace. Acoustic guitar and more unique percussion add to the more rootsy pop of “Forever Changes Everything Now,” which features both the male and female vocals mixing beautifully. And the seven-minute title track mixes soft electronic beats with acoustic guitar and rich vocals with some found samples, all for a unique pop experience that’s equal parts Beach Boys and Flaming Lips.
Moonbabies proves that the best European pop music today is coming from Sweden (and Hives be damned). The Orange Billboard sounds so good, plays so fluidly, feels so tight that it has a timeless quality, and there is not a single weak track on this album. In short, the duo of Ola and Carina has crafted a stellar pop album worthy of worldwide recognition.