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Imperial Hearts

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Album Review

Sacramento twee pop supergroup the California Oranges return with their fourth and best album, an unapologetic throwback to that point when bands like Velocity Girl, the Apples in Stereo, and Holiday Flyer (from whence came three-fifths of the California Oranges) created a workable indie pop alternative both to flannel-clad machismo and insular lo-fi weirdness. Imperial Hearts is the band's most assertive album, a crisply recorded collection of fully realized and well-arranged pop songs built on ringing and jangling electric guitars and the alternating boy/girl vocals of co-leaders John Conley and Verna Brock. Several tracks, most notably Conley's propulsive "Silver Shoes" and Brock's yearning "Anywhere USA," are among the band's finest work. Unfortunately, a fundamental problem with this particular brand of indie pop remains: at 12 songs in 44 minutes, Imperial Hearts starts to drag a bit in its final third. The songs themselves are in no way inferior to those that came before, but there was a reason why the low-budget D.I.Y. 7" single was the defining hallmark of twee pop: two or three songs is just about exactly enough winsome harmonies and sugary melodies to enjoy at a time. Even though the five-and-a-half-minute shoegazer ballad "Feel Better" is smartly placed at the album's midpoint, functioning as a sort of built-in breather, listening to all of Imperial Hearts in one go is kind of like eating an entire bag of the band's namesake fruits in a sitting: what's refreshing and sweet at first can turn cloying.


Formed: 2000 in Sacramento, CA

Genre: Alternative

Years Active: '00s

After ten years together and four albums, the brother-sister duo John and Katie Conley disbanded Holiday Flyer in late 2002. It was time for John to focus on his other gleefully charming pop band, the California Oranges, while Katie moved on to work with the Sinking Ships. The California Oranges issued one eponymous album in 2001 before John permanently moved on. Two years later, Verna Brock and twin brothers Matt and Ross Levine made things a family affair once more with the...
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Imperial Hearts, California Oranges
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