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More Mellow Hits

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Album Review

One of Jim Rao's earliest Orange Cake Mix outings, More Mellow Hits is, well, just that. Maybe not hits in the conventional sense, but those with a fondness for gentle bedroom pop at its finest won't be going wrong here. The opening acoustic guitar on "Girl on the Film" alone suggests everything from summery Cure songs to Marine Girls wistfulness to hints of the Field Mice and more besides. That the later "If You Were Here" takes an early New Order-style bassline and makes it sound warm and inviting, thanks to the rest of the arrangement, is only right and proper as a result. Keeping to Rao's usual economy in approach — 13 short songs making up a 34 minute album — More Mellow Hits works his echo-heavy ground well, switching easily between keyboard and guitar parts without fuss or worry. His ear for taking the mundane and making it quietly majestic was clearly in place from near the start of his public music-making existence, thus the gorgeously simple approach of "Faithful," synths, vocals, and nothing more, or the sweet, just happy and just sad enough guitar and piano of "As Days Go By" and "We Went to Graceland." Things aren't always winsomeness, though — thus "Glitter Daze," a glammed-up rocker revamped through Rao's own particular approach, rumbling drums and Bolan riff fed through heavy reverb. His irregular practice of including a cover version gets a nod here, thanks to a version of Carly Simon's "Anticipation." In keeping with the best of his remakes, though, the song is near immediately identifiable; Rao makes it sound like an original, overdubbed vocals and steady playing and more in place. Hearing him do the expected stretching out of the title song is a lovely little pleasure.


Genre: Alternative

Years Active: '90s, '00s

Orange Cake Mix is the nom de plume of Connecticut resident Jim Rao. A prolific singer/songwriter, Rao began scribbling lyrics and humming his own melodies as a child; in the early '90s, Rao started recording his compositions on cassettes. Rao thought of the name Orange Cake Mix while stocking shelves in a supermarket. In June 1995, Rao released his first album, More Mellow Hits. True to its appellation, More Mellow Hits was a collection of acoustic pop inspired by the '70s soft rock of Bread and...
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