Wednesday 19 October 2022

Orianthi - Rock Candy (2022)

Country: Australia
Style: Hard Rock
Rating: 7/10
Release Date: 14 Oct 2022
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I liked Orianthi's previous album, O, released a couple of years ago, and I like this one too, for a lot of the same reasons. She has an unusual sound, because it's rooted in pop music but she's clearly a hard rock guitarist with fast fingers. That approach gives a lot of range to explore on an album like this and she obviously has fun doing that, including the two instrumental bookends, Illuminate Pt. I and Pt. II, which feel like they could have been on a Steve Vai solo album. In between are nine real songs that cover plenty of ground.

The first, Light It Up, is hard rock through and through, with a grungy guitar tone. Fire Together is softer, with a dance vibe to it as if it's a rocked up cover of a pop song. However, there's still a nod to Led Zeppelin's Misty Mountain Hop to underline its rock credentials. Where Did Your Heart Go is both pop and country, sassy from the outset with its fingersnap beats. And yet, whatever genre these songs start out as or hint towards, the guitar solos are always somewhere on the spectrum of rock music, from acoustic to hard towards metal.

And, of course, the guitar is why we're here because, while Orianthi's voice is good enough, not to mention versatile enough, to give her a day job using only that instrument, she's known primarily as a guitarist and she blisters on this album when she wants to. Conversely, what makes it work as a collection of songs is that she doesn't show off, letting her songs grow and do their thing before adding something special for the solo. And then, for the most part, she calms that down again so the song can wrap up the way it should.

While Light It Up and Witches & The Devil are the heaviest and most intense songs that the album has to offer, I'd have to call out Where Did Your Heart Go for its guitarwork. It's minimally acoustic to begin with, then adds a gorgeous fluidity in the Mark Knopfler style partway and ends up with searing purity. It's a good song, entirely apart from what the guitar does, but it's the one where I can't stop listening to that guitar, whatever else the song does.

And so it goes. There's a pop mentality to the melodies, presumably representing the candy in the album title, but the solos are all hard rock and they're joyous. I have to admit that I'd love to hear what Orianthi can do over forty minutes on an instrumental album, the way that legends like Joe Satriani or Steve Vai do. She has so much nuance that she doesn't just need to shred like those old Metal Blade albums; she can take that time to explore just how much she can do with her guitar. But that would be a very different album.

And, to be honest, I dug this from a guitar aspect but I dug it as a collection of songs too, whether they have a heavier feel like Light It Up and Void, a lighter one like Living is Like Dying, an acoustic country song, or somewhere in between. Whatever the tone, the song ends up perky, ever upbeat even when the guitar sounds grungy or sleazy. It's telling that they're all short, nothing here over four minutes and only four songs over three. Witches & The Devil doesn't even make it to two and all that means that the album feels like it's a lot shorter than the thirty-one minutes that it runs.

Because it's so perky, being that short means that it's almost instinctual to just play it again and that only serves to let the songs get their hooks a little deeper into us. After three or four times through, it felt like I'd been hearing these on the radio for weeks. And I think that's a good thing. It means that this is a better album than its title and deceptive accessibility suggests that it is.

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