Andhi O'Neill, singer/songwriter and multi-instrumentalist mastermind behind Origami Sun, writes songs that are humble, without pretense, and just human. Which is sort of strange when you realize that most of the cast on Origami Sun’s new album More Songs about Insects and Fruit aren’t human at all. In addition to O'Neill, the album features a lyrical cast of nature-dwellers who range from bees and butterflies to girls that grow pineapples and live inside nectarines or on trees. They fall in and out of love, they drive across the country and see the world, they’re born and they die, and sometimes they just sit in their bedrooms or watch TV. Each romance, adventure, or question asked is backed by a wealth of the staple folk-pop instruments like harmonica, banjo, ukulele, tambourine, and even kazoo—a lo-fi soundscape that occasionally flirts with the conventions of ‘twee’, but never crosses that line. It’s reminiscent of more recent indie acts such as Delta Spirit, but it also evokes the psychedelic personifications of Devendra Banhart and contains a fair amount of Dylan-esque rambles (“Song for a Sunday Morning” in particular).
Through the thirteen tracks on More Songs, O'Neill plays with a variety of emotions that ultimately revolve around themes of self-discovery and transformation. There’s the more direct tracks, like “Butterfly Blues” and its chorus of 'cuh-cuh-cuh-cuh-cuh-cocoon’, but there are other, more subtle moments when O'Neill’s clever metaphor and natural imagery take you to the bedroom of a young twenty-something whose refreshingly inquisitive brand of existentialism provides a good counterpoint to his cynicism. My favorite track on the album, “You Don’t Know What You Are”, is the bitter lament of an ex-lover, but even the condemnations of fakery are overshadowed by the song’s titular statement and drive towards introspection, however crooked. Another standout track is “the Anthropologist”, a six and a half minute ballad to a confusing society of advertising, electronic disconnect, and anxiety that ends up spiraling into a mournful two minute instrumental, one of the few moments that electronic instruments are prominent on the album.
The thing about More Songs About Insects and Fruit that I’ve found most striking, however, is its depth. I was given the album to review over two weeks ago and while I liked it from the get-go, it was hard to formulate words on an initial listen. It’s immediately rewarding in its catchy melodies, imagery, and impressive instrumental lineup, but successive listens are required to penetrate the world O'Neill has created. It’s in no way the satirical critique of modern life found on More Songs about Buildings and Food, the Talking Heads album Origami Sun’s More Songs slyly takes its name from, but it’s still a young man’s look at a world that lends itself to beauty but is full of contradictions, doubts, and pain.