The sun-kissed and smooth self-titled sophomore record from Mild Orange couldn’t have arrived at a better time, pairing perfectly with the ongoing heatwave across the U.K. Juicy and vibrant, it will have you nostalgic for days spent at the beach, a cheeky can in hand, enjoying the company of a budding summer romance. Needless to say, they’ve crafted the quintessential summertime album.
The New Zealand four-piece has steadily been on the rise in the indie scene after debuting their “melting melodies” on 2018’s Foreplay, charming listeners with their tongue-in-cheek indie dream-pop sound. Consisting of childhood friends, frontman Josh Mehrtens and lead guitarist Josh Reid, with bassist Tom Kelk and drummer Jack Ferguson, the band creates energetic, summer-bummer psychedelic rock complete with compelling lyrics.
Mild Orange might not be a household name in the U.K. yet, despite nabbing a spot at All Points East last summer and selling out London shows. On Foreplay, they were “just getting started.” It was like a first love — fiery, and rose-coloured — but the self-titled album opts for navigating the different stages of a relationship, from infatuation to love and inevitably, heartbreak. There were high expectations for the record, and as the band re-introduces their woozy and easy-going vibe, they’re able to solidify their DIY mellow sound across the thirteen tracks.
The record starts gently, like waves lapping the shore. The ambient, instrumental opener ‘Blue Ocean’ smoothly transitions into one of the gems on the album, ‘First Taste.’ It’s sexy and buzzy, fondly recalling the early stages of a relationship against a rumbling bassline and crashing drums, singing “I know I’ll be fine, with you by my side.” It’s this type of easy, fun-loving tune that made fans fall for the quartet in the first place, and thankfully they make it clear early on that they haven’t lost their buoyant and relaxed sound.
At the forefront of Mild Orange’s music is romance, with sexy and sincere lyrics accompanying gooey synths and plucky bass. Unlike Foreplay, which oozed sex in a fun yet obvious way, the latest drop has the band focusing on the complexities of relationships, with seductiveness slowly creeping into the songs like a gentle kiss. It’s there, but it doesn’t overpower the music.
‘Freak In Me’ is a playful and stripped-back tune that embraces bringing out your weird side when you’re really comfortable with someone, as Mehrtens sings, “And bring me, bring me to you / ‘Cause you bring out the freak in me / It’s only for you / Just you.” It can be taken in the intimate sense, or in a platonic way, asking: who brings out the freak in you?
While many sophomore albums find themselves rooted in heartbreak, the Dunedin natives try to, (for the most part), embrace the happy moments of relationships and feelings of naive infatuation. ‘Grin’ is all about wanting to make the other person happy, to experience joy together, while ‘Share This Dance’ is a sweet number with benign instrumentalization that celebrates the little steps that bring people closer as they fall in love, with Mehrtens admitting “I loved you from first sight.” The song is warm and fuzzy without being sickly and can make even cold-hearted cynics believe that love exists. Later on the record, vulnerable crooner ‘Now You Know’ has Mehrtens wearing his heart on his sleeve, sharing “I wrote this song, to tell the whole world / That you are my girl / I’m your boy / It’s a big wide world, together we’ll explore it.”
Like any relationship, the naivety wears off as the album reaches a rock-heavy crescendo. Turning sour, there’s an edginess to the tracks as Mehrtens gets tired of playing a fool. Without infatuation keeping the relationship afloat, Mehrtens is able to realize his mistakes, singing “It’s different now / because I hate playing along” on ‘Fooled My Heart.’ Unlike the previous tracks, which fully embrace happy and groovy basslines, there’s now grittiness and pessimism, but it becomes more apparent in ‘Fool’s Love.’ The stiff, rock anthem removes any woozy synths in favour of electric guitar solos and plucky bass. This continues into the album’s ending, ‘Timestables,’ which attempts to reconcile the relationship, but it’s more difficult once there’s been heartbreak. You’re trying to get over the other person, but you still leave the door open, hoping they’ll come back to you. The familiar psychedelic and dazed bassline weaves throughout the track, but it’s more controlled, bringing the song back down when goes too rock.
The self-titled album is like a romantic film, exploring all the different stages of a relationship. Like any authentic partnership, the album has its high and lows, with the beginning as the strongest and most enjoyable, showing off their flavourful and rich melodies. The band displayed more of a range than their debut album offered, but what lets the album down is the ending. The final three tracks, while cohesive together, didn’t seem to fit with the rest of the record as they go too far into the rock genre, ending the record on a bittersweet note. But like any good rom-com, Mild Orange is something that’s comforting and easy to gravitate to, letting you live vicariously through someone else’s relationship, fulling embracing the kaleidoscope of emotions and frequencies. It’s a supercut of different tones and wavelengths, coming together to create a nostalgic, romantic album for forthcoming months of sunshine.