Perhaps there's something inherently more pleasing about pop music from abroad. By definition, most of us like pop music, but I'd wager it's rarely something we'd wave from a mountaintop as the pinnacle of our own respective civilizations; the best we can hope for from our exported pop is that it's reasonably tasty and doesn't kill anyone.
So when pop music is imported, perhaps we feel less embarrassed about enjoying it. The same people who won't touch a Coke or a Snickers bar may well rave about the guilty pleasures of a Peruvian Inca Kola or Japanese Pocky: it's comparable crap, but we're not directly responsible -- and we're also savvy international consumers!
French or no, Following Days is tasty and sophisticated. Orwell's smooth harmonies flow easily over a delicate mix of horns, strings, guitars, synths, drums and other percussion. If you're looking for something to piss off your parents, this isn't it; bossa nova plays a big role in these arrangements. There's plenty of space-age bachelor pad music -- and comparisons to certain obvious bands are both inevitable and forthcoming -- but Orwell do a nice job of trying to move French pop out of the lounge scene and into our radios.
Whether you thought Air's 10,000 Hz Legend was pretentious crap or charmingly naive will go a long way in deciding whether or not you'll like Following Days. While it lacks the enthralling complexity of that opus, it also lacks its distracting ambition, opting at all times for the sanctity of the hook. Orwell, for the most part, avoids the pitfalls of pomposity and takes its cues from pure pop. As such, it goes down like a series of Pixy Stix: quick, energizing and artificially delicious.
Do they lay it on a little thick at times? Well, sure -- but these are intelligent, delightful songs with only the barest hint of vanity, which I can easily dismiss as an unfortunate consequence of being French.
(See how much fun foreign pop can be? We get to smile and poke fun at the people of other nations!)
You won't find any new sounds here, and I certainly won't peg Orwell as the Next Big Thing, but there's plenty to like about Following Days -- it's a thoroughly satisfying and guilt-free import.