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Album Review

On Orange, his Future Farmer debut, Yuji Oniki is backed by members of his band — including Beulah drummer Steve St. Cin — and ex-Guided by Voices/Cobra Verde guitarist Doug Gillard, who reportedly became a fan of the Oakland, CA-based multi-instrumentalist/singer/songwriter/arranger after hearing his self-released Shonen Blue album. Oniki's songs reveal he's been absorbing a mix of styles and influences over the years, including sunny, '70s soft pop (Bread), jangly '80s indie rock (Matthew Sweet, R.E.M., etc.), and the polished chamber pop of groups like Apples in Stereo, Cloud Eleven, or Elliott Smith. Like each of the aforementioned artists, Oniki seems to favor dreamy and often slightly too charming melodies drenched in ringing guitars and backing harmonies that lean toward the simplistic, occasionally accented by a "Penny Lane"-ish trumpet (courtesy of Beulah's Bill Swan, another longtime associate) braying away sadly in the distance. Oniki's pleasant voice (whose vocal timbre, at times, recalls Elliott Smith) falls just this side of being too twee, though he gets extra bonus points for bilingually alternating between English and Japanese; on the opening track and its closing refrain, "Tokyo Clover," Oniki alternates between both languages. Overall, the production here is fairly sparse, with just a hint of reverb, but it seems to be the perfect formula for Oniki's winsome and oft-bittersweet paens, which seem generally reflective of a kindler, gentler world.

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Orange, Yuji Oniki
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