Richard Orofino — I’ve Seen A Car On Fire Before



Ever get really impressed by a person, only to discover that they’re some kind of child prodigy and are basically just kicking your ass at being kickass? I did that with Richard Orfino. I heard “Stay” and was intrigued. Then I wandered over to Richard’s Bandcamp page where I found out he’s apparently 17 years old. My state of admiration quickly turned to that of jealousy. Either be really young or really talented. Being both is unfair.

The hazy, melancholic “Stay” is the closing track to Orfino’s I’ve Seen A Car On Fire Before, which released on Saturday. It turns out this kid has casually unloaded nine projects since October 2013, and six since last June.

There are two schools of thought when it comes to making music, especially in the early stages of one’s career. The first is to play things close to the vest, releasing only the very best you can possibly muster. The second is to vomit music all over the place because it’s all you know how to do. I’ve always admired the latter. When I made music (once upon a time), it’s what I did. Just let me have it all, Daniel Johnston-style. Jandek-style. Charles Hamilton-style. Of course, all of those artists are perhaps certifiably crazy. I’ll listen to all of Richard’s stuff and let you know if he’s a wack job.

I’ve Seen A Car On Fire Before is cool because it’s hard to pin down what’s happening. The breadth of Orofino’s young discography starts to make a bit more sense once you realize he’s all over the place. “The Secrets of New York” is Auto Tuney, like some Bon Iver material. It also has some weird, synthy ’80s vibe that continues on “Here in the dark” and “All The Middle Days,” which sounds like a song that should have a terrible VHS-shot music video that plays on public access TV at 3 A.M. on weeknights.

“I Think Your Feet Are Getting Colder ’Cause It’s Colder By The Water” is — dare I say — danceable. It has the kind of upbeat, beachy irreverence you might find in a Best Coast song. Nothing else on this album even kind of reminds me of Best Coast. Wonderfully scatterbrained.

Between the production and strained vocal performance on “Sleeping Dog,” I’m picking up hints of Mr. Hudson. It’s really depressing in a beautiful, electronic way. It instantly put me in a mood that only Mr. Hudson had previously done. Nothing else on this album even kind of reminds me of Mr. Hudson. Again, wonderfully scatterbrained.

Which brings me back to “Stay.” The closer is the album’s strong point. It’s just perfect. It’s interesting enough to warrant multiple listens, yet simple enough to be incredibly accessible. You could play this song for someone and they’d enjoy it within 30 seconds. Bandcamp says Orofino got the vocal assist from Evan Liu, which is important. The additional vocals pay dividends.

Richard Orofino has the ingredients of someone who’s going places. He’s incredibly young, apparently driven to create, and multi-dimensional enough to pull off just about anything. There are eight tracks on this album, and you could split them into three or four groups and genuinely convince me that they’re all from different artists. There’s very little cohesion anywhere, but instead you get a kid who’s practically bragging about everything he can get away with musically. As he progresses as an artist, maybe he’ll have to narrow down to one sound. Maybe he can continue to play the field. Who knows.

For now, let’s just watch him show off.