Once upon a time, in the suburban Inner West of Sydney, a vibrant and undeniably nostalgic psych rock band called Hailer was born. The band accomplished great things within their decade of making music together, including releasing the highly acclaimed El Cosmico and Another Way, in addition to playing over 40 shows in three months across America.
But a dark hiatus was brewing for the group, to which 2015 saw vocalist/guitarist Phil take some time out to focus on an introspective solo project. Now, under the moniker of PJ Orr, the talented front man presents to you a shining solo debut album Foggy Notion.
A woozy cocktail of shoegaze, folk and blues, Foggy Notion is an album that will catch you off guard with its diverse sounds and take you to the best possible places.
Much like the title would believe you to think, Foggy Notion is a collection of ten songs driven by a cathartic storytelling quality – each bookended with a level of hazy uncertainty. The release takes obvious elements from Hailer’s psychedelic sound but mixes it up with various rock/folk/blues inspired techniques.
The genre-bending release kicks off with Animals, a short bluesy number that contrasts a smooth melody and steady pacing rhythm with breathy vocals. In amidst rich tones and layers of percussion, PJ Orr’s slight screeching can be heard, being just as raw and exciting as it seems. In comparison to a few other songs featured on Foggy Notion, Animals is unique in placing emphasis on the vocals rather than letting them slip behind dripping guitar licks.
On the other hand we’ve got Weavers, a track spanning almost six and a half minutes, which draws on trippy retro melodies. The singer-songwriter takes a more experimental approach with this one that results in shining chords so full and lush they melt away with ease. Towards the end, the structure gets a little more fragmented and swirls into fuzzy, shoegaze riffs. Track six All Your Records follows with a similar nostalgic sound but far more amped up. It’s songs like these which showcase PJ Orr’s ability to cleverly combine textures and dual screeching-soft vocals.
Lost You To The Darkness presents yet another side to Foggy Notion, this time in the form of a stripped back acoustic number. One of the most appealing things about this song is the way PJ Orr sings in such an warm and conversational way that it feels like you’re right there with him.
The opening lines “Thought I lost you to the darkness/but you couldn’t be found/it’s me that I was chasing/around and around” give a level of intimacy that’s imitated but not quite replicated in other songs on the album. It’s a relatively quiet and simple number but one that stands out in a strikingly beautiful way, complete with a sprinkle of quintessential Australian rock on top.
Between blatant 60-70’s flashbacks to modern acoustic numbers, Foggy Notion really does live up to the clichéd saying of having something for everyone. For a debut solo release, the ex-front man has done a stellar job at forming a well-rounded album that draws on an interesting bunch of influences from different genres and decades. Although the future of Hailer is up in the air, PJ Orr’s smooth sounds are firmly planted in the ground and ready for growth.
Foggy Notion is available now for pre-order on PJ Orr’s Bandcamp page before its official release on April 8.