There are a lot of sloppy, boring Americana-folk bands out there, but Mandolin Orange is their opposite. On their latest album, Blindfaller, the Chapel Hill duo of Andrew Marlin and Emily Frantz showcase their warm, melancholy sound, which is punctuated by occasional anthemic phrasings and crafted with meticulous attention to detail: the flutter of mandolin, the flooding of pedal steel, the way their vocal harmonies rise up and snap together like magnets.
Some songs don't sink in as quickly as others. "Echo," for instance, sounds like background noise to sipping your morning coffee. Others are more compelling, like "Wildfire," which highlights Marlin's golden, slightly gravelly vocals alongside Frantz's sweet and cool tone. There's a kind of James Taylor-style folk storytelling going on here, a little reminiscent of "Fire and Rain," but from a perspective more historical than personal. "Hard Travelin'," which is about hustling shows on Nashville's Music Row, is the only song that chugs along at a fast pace—a much-needed change that features fantastically tight soloing. The rest of the album is slower but powerful, full of startling contrasts, like those late-summer afternoons when you suddenly notice how nicely the light is shining through the window.
Mandolin Orange plays the Top Hat Thu., April 6. Eli West opens. Doors at 8:30 PM, show at 9. $17/$15 advance at tophatlounge.com.