There’s no clear explanation for why Orchards haven’t been given the push they deserve. Their underground buzz has naturally been building for a couple of years now, but this is a band that have ‘mainstream crossover smash’ written all over then and it’s yet to be fostered to any extent. Their math-rock touches ground them further in alternative territory than bands like Pale Waves or Fickle Friends who they’d inevitably by grouped in with, but that’s hardly a dealbreaker considering the sunny indie-pop melodies that would sound incredible on mainstream radio and festival stages. Perhaps it’s a case of reaching the point where the groundswell is just impossible to ignore, something that the lead-up to debut full-length Lovecore has been hinting at, particularly with singles and pre-release tracks showing just how stellar this band are at crafting intricate but hugely accessible pop songs. That’s not something that just any band can do, and the fact that Orchards have a borderline spotless record on their hands is a clear enough reason to give them the leverage they deserve.
And to the surprise of absolutely no one who’s familiar with band, Lovecore is more of the same from Orchards but with the popwork intact and the infectiousness continuing to overflow, to a degree where it’s hard to knock what can on the surface feel like a lack of progression. Even that’s not necessarily true though; between their Losers / Lovers EP in 2018 and now, Orchards have found a way to expand their sound and weave in fractals of new ideas without disrupting their formative core, and that gives Lovecore the grounding that a debut album needs without losing the light and earnestness that made them such a great draw in the first place. That does mean that most of Lovecore is great for reasons that have already been discussed plenty of times before, but that’s hardly something to knock them for, especially when the results ring as brightly as they do.
That does mean, however, that the pool of ideas on this album could afford to be a bit deeper, and while ultimately each piece culminates in something worthwhile and enjoyable, the means of getting there can feel a bit overly familiar at times. Particularly in the first crop of tracks, the fiddly, wavy guitar motif can feel a little overused, and having that act as the central form of math-pop sensibilities within Orchards’ formula whittles away some of the progressiveness that, up to now, has been one of their marked features. When viewed as less of an individual part and more of a component to a wider result though, it’s something that Orchards absolute fly at creating on a pretty consistent basis. While not as sonically diverse, it’s easy to place tracks like Sooner and Magical Thinking in the same ballpark as Paramore’s After Laughter, where the blissful, pastel-coloured ripples of guitar slink between the indie-pop and new wave sensibilities for the sort of pop music that has that immediate gratification that’s so often craved, but also comes with a lot of dexterity and tone that maintains a distinct, homegrown feel. In fact, it’s easier to run even further with those comparisons, as the brooding synth cushions and spoken-word poetry of Social Sobriety and the blasted walls of down-tuned guitars on History serve as the cathartic wells of darkness amongst all the sweetness and light, and provide the same necessary anchor that No Friend did in keeping that exuberance grounded and highlighting the instability beneath it. When everything comes together, it’s all great stuff, and while the innocence in Lucy Evers’ voice keeps up the bounding energy on a track like Luv You 2, there’s definitely a cynicism below the surface that’s rather palpable, though never to the point where the balance feels off or the exterior of excellent pop songs feels too much like a facade.
It’s analogous to a lot of what’s going on in the current bedroom-pop and indie-punk scenes, except Orchards crank up the pop factor and in doing so, deftly avoid a lot of the humdrum mundanities that can so frequently make both of those sounds a chore to listen to. And as such, it places the insular, often relationship-centric subject matter of Lovecore in the same pop context where it thrives even more; the personal depth is still totally recognisable, but there’s also the inherent universality that comes from not knowing where a complicated relationship really stands on Vacancy, or the twinges of melancholy in seeing an ex move on on Luv You 2. It helps that there’s a very deft command of lyricism that brings in the indie touches that more standard pop music typically wouldn’t humour (a line like “I don’t wish sadness on you / I just hope it rains when you get a haircut or wear your new shoes” is an absolute goldmine of quirk and personality), but that also comes in Evers’ retreating into herself to examine her own anxieties on Sincerely Overwhelmed, and how that’s affected by being so exposed as an artist on Social Sobriety. It all falls into a decidedly 21st Century branch of indie framing, and it’s something that Orchards absolutely nail, capturing a reality that remains personal and never masks that fact, but also has enough of a command within the pop ecosystem to make a lot of real movements there at the same time.
In fact, it’s a level of command that most acts in Orchards’ position currently can’t best; it’s just too tight and neatly woven on Lovecore in a way that keeps them on the boundary between the underground and upper levels of the indie sphere, but leaves Orchards themselves in complete control of where to go next. That’s not to say there’s no direction here, but it all feels tailor-made to result in a resounding success whichever way it should end up. Ideally, Lovecore sees Orchards become among the newest set of indie darlings and follow in the wake of their synthpop predecessors, largely because their crossover potential in terms of melodic compositions and accessible songwriting is effectively unmatched, and because they’ve already got so much in the way of talent that a swift boost in momentum should be more than enough to see them go on to fantastic things. Fingers crossed that actually happens; the meteoric rise of Orchards in 2020 needs to be well-known by this time next year.
For fans of: Fickle Friends, The Aces, MUNA
Words by Luke Nuttall
‘Lovecore’ by Orchards is released on 13th March on Big Scary Monsters.