Orion Sun makes music for those of us with sentimental tendencies and bleeding hearts. Nostalgic and dreamy, the burgeoning, Philly-based, lo-fi, bedroom-pop artist crafts songs that feel like emotional time capsules. Once opened, you’re pulled back into nebulous worlds bubbling over with longing and desire you thought were beyond your orbit. Deeply influenced by musical legends including Nancy Wilson, Brian McKnight, and Stevie Wonder, 23-year-old Tiffany Majette has been able to deliver timeless, self-reflective, delicate numbers that peel back layers to reveal one’s innermost, gushiest parts. With strikingly infectious phrases and smooth, buttery vocals, she delivers a melodic vulnerability that’ll stop you dead in your tracks. She shares this mystical ability to uproot one’s emotional stasis with her contemporary, Frank Ocean, who’s also known to make songs that drop you into poignant scenes of your life, or a life imagined.
At this point, I’m not sure how I found Orion Sun’s music in the midst of all the local (and global) noise that exists on the interwebz. Considering her sensible, lighthearted approach to heavy topics like grief, and heartache; I think it found me. When I first heard the project, I was at a place in my life where a lot of things were kind of going wrong and I couldn’t see the bigger picture, kinda like most people in their twenties. It was the summer of 2017: Blond was still in full rotation. SZA had just dropped Ctrl, which was right on time as I had just been dumped by my girlfriend who wasn’t my girlfriend but really WAS my girlfriend. SZA’s music, with its infectious melodies, emotional depth and vulnerable honesty obviously spoke to me, but at the time, I was looking for something less refined and polished, and a bit more lo-fi and tangible. That all came to me in the form of a collection of fleeting moments and daydreams.
From the start, the album envelops you in a warm, textured blanket of sound. You get the feeling that this isn’t something mass produced and that maybe only a few hands were involved in crafting it. Knowing that a project is self-released and produced always influences the way that I listen to and reflect on it, as it typically reveals much about the artists creative practice, influences and tendencies. You can really get to know a lot about a person based on the kinds of things they make and the ways they go about making them. There’s also a level of creative risk and authenticity that self-produced/released projects appear to have in comparison to the more mainstream, heavily backed creative world. But then again, maybe I’m more forgiving in my criticism of independent art, as one would be when listening to the music of a friend of a friend. And maybe I’m more accepting of experimentation for the sake of experimentation, partially because it’s inspiring to see people step out of the clearly defined lines and boxes we’re expected to live and create within, which in itself is a massively courageous act. Despite these concerns, this isn’t a project that needs to be given any passes or pardons in lieu of judgement.
A collection of fleeting moments and daydreams has a distinctly nostalgic, analog texture. Far from the sterile laboratory atmosphere evoked by audio engineers in recording studios, the project whispers and screams, and breathes and sighs in a distorted, tactile crescendo. The warmth Orion Sun imbues moments and daydreams with partially comes from this this thick, crispy vinyl crackle that’s intentionally blended into each track, evoking a sense of nostalgia for the eras of the VCR static of home videos and the grainy haze of disposable film cameras from our youth. Orion Sun’s use of percussion is another component of moments and daydreams that contributes to the timeless, analog atmosphere of the project. It’s easily one of the most enjoyable, ear-perking elements of her sonic palette, and is sure to take her music far. She crafts simple, yet infectiously knocking analog drum loops that feel reminiscent of hip-hop artists of the late 90’s-early-2000’s like Pharcyde, Tribe and JayDee, further amplifying the project’s familiar, nostalgic tone. My favorite drum patterns can be heard on songs like Antidote, Space Jam – An Odyssey, Intoxicated, and Water (Antidote, Pt. 2). Though looped, they vary often enough and morph into new patterns as the songs progress, providing us with an engaging and exciting auditory experience. It’s hard to tell what year moments and daydreams was dropped without looking; you just get the sense that it came from the past, where things are always assumed to be much simpler.
Contrary to the smorgasbord of sounds you might hear on a first album from a rising artist, the production throughout moments and daydreams is quite consistent, suggesting that the young artist has discovered and crafted her own sonic palette. The sound design throughout moments and daydreams is pronounced and intentionally crafted: each sample is expertly placed in the mix, enriching the overall theme and tone of each track.
The album opener, Orion, is a deeply personal acoustic soliloquy where-in Orion Sun, amidst a buzzing crowd, encourages herself to pursue her craft, regardless of whether anyone will take notice. The juxtaposition of such an intimate performance, with a sample/recording of a respectful but distracted crowd unveils the anxieties and realities of choosing to pursue music. On Space Jam – An Odyssey, she places samples of one of NASA’s mission control transmissions throughout the heartfelt ballad as a nod to both her cosmic curiosities, and to her desires of escaping earthly woes of heartache and financial pressures.
Unrequited love and the pursuit of one’s dreams and successes are some of the most tried and true topics that can inspire art. It can be hard turning these high-concept themes into pieces with depth, but with the right sonic and melodic elements, Orion Sun manages to make music that is refreshingly intimate, heartfelt and universal.
The songwriting on moments and daydreams is effortlessly poignant and dreamy, yet maintains a connection to the present moment. Orion Sun manages to toe the line between what’s fantasy and what’s real, often taking on lofty ideas and feelings about love, friendship, connection and juxtaposing them with being confronted by the actual realities of these experiences. Every moment is romanticized and every lover is idealized, but in the end, true colors are always revealed. On Antidote, an infectiously smooth, tender number, she opens with imagery of flying through the sky with a love interest only to be abruptly woken up and placed back into the throes of reality, which happen to be her hot ass room in the middle of summer.
“But it was all a dream/
I woke up in my bed /
It’s so damn hot in there…”
These emotionally charged lines, sticky melodies and palpable imagery prompt me to recount the summers I spent (and continue to spend) working tirelessly, being without AC, falling for the wrong people, and remembering the friends that witnessed it all.
I’ve been listening to a collection of fleeting moments and daydreams for roughly two years now and it simply never gets old. In writing this, I’ve realized that this collection of songs has provided me with a safe space to reminisce on moments that are long gone, and to ultimately accept whatever the present moment has in store. For me, the project exists in a liminal space that is adolescence, which is so often about toeing that line between focusing on what you want to happen (the idealized fantasy) and seeing what’s actually happening (the less than perfect reality).
I throw on Space Jam – An Odyssey and it’s the summer of 2017 again. I’m in my old best friend’s car; we’re blasting this song on our way to whatever-fucking event, stressing about being broke, wanting to make something of ourselves and being sooo damned tired of the fickleness of love. The first line, a sensible metaphor exposing one’s own financial insecurity, hits me as hard as it ever did:
“You wear Michael Jordans,
I can’t afford them.”
I remember thinking I was in love with someone who was a bit older, who had the guise of having all their shit together. I was working at st*rbucks, barely able to get by. I wanted to give them the world, or at the very least, pay for dinner, and I simply couldn’t. We were both in different worlds. It didn’t work out for a myriad of reasons, but I remember grieving that loss with this song. Things are obviously very different now, but I’ll never forget everything I gained and lost that summer with this album playing in the background.
I deeply appreciate and habitually seek out musicians whose lyrics and songs are often convoluted, experimental swatches of words and phrases, like Björk, or Radiohead’s Thom Yorke, but there’s something undoubtedly mystical about artists who can convey so much with so little. With 12 abbreviated songs, Orion Sun explores the sweeping, blundering bliss of adolescence and coming of age against the backdrop of an urban landscape, where the car is a symbol of freedom and nothing is ever what it appears to be. It’s been a privilege and an honor to come of age in Philadelphia with this music that clearly comes from a similar place. Written and produced by herself, for herself, and thus almost never released, a collection of fleeting moments and daydreams is a magnum opus that reflects so many of my own gnawing, insecure feelings, selfish tendencies and desire for romantic connections. As of today, I’m still making new memories and reflecting on old ones with this project. I hope you can give it a listen, and that it might have the same effect on you. inretrospect rating: 79/100
Is there a piece of music that transports you back to a moment in time? Drop it below in the comments and let’s remember together.