Los Angeles, CA, ensemble The Gentle Orchestra is making the rounds with their full-length debut album, SYNONYMITY. They are composed of former skateboard icon Malchi “Spidey” De Montrond and a legion of other talented musicians (for the full credits, see their Bandcamp page). If I had to describe their sound, it would be something like jazzy easy-listening pop with a retro touch. This silky smooth debut LP was recorded and mixed at The Compound Studio in Long Beach, CA, and mastered by John Golden at Golden Mastering in Ventura, CA.
“Slow Down” is their lead single and first track from SYNONYMITY. Bright and brassy, the song opens with an energizing guitar riff and plenty of pep, only to quite literally “slow down” towards the end. De Montrond’s chipper vocals are the highlight of “Slow Down,” bouncing off the walls with all sorts of stuttered syllables. Next is a piano ballad entitled “So Long Ago.” The rolling tom drums are a nice touch to such a sad-sounding song, as are the saxophone solos. This one reminded me of something The Beatles would have written back in the day.
“Karen Is” thickens with heavily strummed acoustic guitar over forceful snare clicks. Again, De Montrond does that odd scatting effect with his voice, the kind that you’d hear in old ‘70s pop records. This track closes with mournful piano chords before the fourth song, “To Skate,” begins. The fifth track, “Lonely,” with its jazz brush kit and sidewinding clarinets, sounds like it reaches back several decades before rock n’ roll became a genre. I feel like this is where having a multitude of musicians playing a wide variety of instruments really benefits The Gentle Orchestra. They get to do lots of things that a regular indie pop or rock band couldn’t do, and I greatly admire them for that.
Jaunty percussion develops on “Smile,” another jazzy throwback, whereas bright pianos and saxophones tango on “It’s Over.” With that said, the album is strongest during its more somber, low-key moments, such as “Everybody.” Simply put, this is an easy-listening pleasure that gets better every time you hear it, especially once the heavily reverbed guitars kick in for a brief moment before the next track, “Breathe,” starts. Finally, the album closes with “Home Alone,” an extra-long, piano-backed finale. I say “extra-long” because this goes on for seven minutes and 14 seconds a la The Beatles’ “Hey Jude,” but without the “na na na”’s at the end. Still, that shouldn’t matter because it is quite elegant in its approach.
Overall, this is a very pleasant listen. De Montrond is quite good at crafting memorable hooks and arrangements. I look forward to hearing more from The Gentle Orchestra in the future! Recommended.