The DIY force is strong with these two acts, conjuring band albums out of largely solo efforts recorded on Tascams at home. But the results are anything but amateur, proving that bedrooms are good for a variety of excitements.
North Carolina’s Orchidales is John O’Donahue over three albums released between 2012 and 2018. The sound is a shoegazey Velvet Underground homage that gets crisper and less gazey and VU over time. The self-titled debut sounds like some dark underground club somewhere, the guitar tones shifting between Velvets rocking rudimentary (“Junky”) and exquisite innovation (“Lushes”). “Everyone’s Girl” sounds like a 60s garage classic. The sound on this record also remind me Patrick Boutwell’s work from the same time period. A year later things sound a bit less VU on An American Album of Familiar Music but still pretty garagey rough and ready. I love the relentless drive of tracks like “Electro,” “Seventeen” and “Emily.” But the record is also marked by some more mid-temp material like “No Name #7” and “Above the Clouds.” Five years passed before Mysterious Skin and Other Favorites came out in 2018 and the production sound was markedly different, cleaner and with vocals more present in the mix. Just listen to the guitar and vocal seem to pop out of the speakers on “Mysterious Skin.” Or there’s the fabulously layered arrangement of “Mira Sorvino // Lisa Kudrow.” “No Name #9” strips everything down to acoustic guitar and a vocal to reveal something so magnificent and honest. But 60s garagey goodness still prevails here in strength on tracks like “Nightcrawler” and “The DEA Took My Baby Away.” Too many years have passed since this last installment of O’Donahue’s fuzzy musical vision.
Andrew Haworth writes a lot songs. He’s put out 9 albums under his own name and two more as his one-man band Where Is Your Dog Now? since 2017. And that’s not the whole of it. By his own account he dramatically overwrites for each album. He wrote 114 songs for 2020’s Songs from the Second Wave and 130 for 2021’s Country Songs for People Who Hate This Country. Holy over-productivity Batman – both records only ended up with 14 cuts each. So what are the results? His nine solo records are full of clever wordplay and fun absurdity, delivered with a Frank Zappa-like deadpan. But his more recent Where Is Your Dog Now? releases have a fuller sound, the hooks are more polished, delivered with an almost McCartney-esque sonic diversity. Hard to believe these are home recordings! The lyrics are still super-smart, cleverisms around every corner, but the tunes are earworm worthy. Case in point from Songs from the Second Wave: “How to Not Go Insane.” So many subtle shifts of hooky melody here. I’m also partial to the driving “Some Things Never Change” and handclap happy “Rewriting Your Narrative.” A year later Country Songs for People Who Hate This Country continued in the same vein, still madcap lyrically and musically full of popped out rock. You could sample the vibe with tracks like “Coffee Table Crooks” and “Claire’s Ween Playlist” but, frankly, just needle-dropping anywhere would work too. “New York Intellectual” reminds me of Momus’s “A Maoist Intellectual” not because they sound similar but because they exude a similar righteous disdain for pseudo-intellectuals. Should-be hit single? Check out “A Little Invested” for your earworm winner. Haworth is busy at work on album #3 for this project, to be entitled The First Songs in the World, and with four preview singles up it’s clear it’s gonna be another winner. My current fave is “Cave” and its cleverly crafted video.
Most of us learn by example. Looking to self-start your own DIY poprock recording career? You won’t get much better teachers than these two indefatigable acts. Click on the links to start your lessons today.