Here We Go Magic’s self-titled 2009 debut was the effort of one man, Luke Temple, who traded in his singer-songwriter cred for a shot at art-rock. And while it really felt like the work of one guy, the album still managed to forge an unlikely path to the head of the latest wave of Brooklyn hipsters. Now, on the Here We Go Magic long-player Pigeons, Temple has a five-piece band behind him, and the resulting album could turn out to be one of the year’s best.
About the above pigeonholing: Yes, Here We Go Magic fit into the art-rock niche, for the most part. There’s a certain visual quality to their music that calls up their obvious influencers, Talking Heads. But straight comparisons don’t really work with a band whose artistic vision is so focussed and singular. There are aspects of mope-rock and even an impressive amount of proggy jamming throughout, lending credibility to comparisons to Grandaddy and The Sea And Cake.
And where the debut album tended to rely heavily on looping and generalised psychedelics, the full band fills out the sound, creating an air of immediacy to the album’s extended jam sections (most notably, the second half of Collector). On prominent display is a deft and airtight rhythm section, comprised of the stunningly excellent Jen Turner on bass and funky human metronome Peter Hale.
Hibernation opens the album, casting an unavoidable Talking Heads pall early on, and, wonderful as it is, the manoeuvre is ultimately an expertly timed bait-and-switch of the best kind. Collector brings in manic drumming and jangly guitar work, all underplayed by analogue keyboard atmospherics.
Casual and F.F.A.P., separated as they are, make up the album’s slow-burning, soulful core. On Casual, Temple sings, “It’s casual, not heartbreaking.” It’s a sardonic juxtaposition of tone and intention – one of many on the album – that hints at a depth of meaning, treading water just out of reach.
Old World United is a frantic and discordant carnival ride, a ferris wheel of drunken shakiness. Here, the keyboards – sounding like machinations of some half-possessed organ grinder – take over the soundscape, eventually becoming too much, bringing the song crashing to a delirious climax.
Land Of Feeling is the funkiest prog jam The Alan Parsons Project never wrote. But Temple’s subdued, near-falsetto croon keeps things grounded, even when the psychedelic posturing and analogue hipness threaten to derail it all. Vegetable Or Native opens with a circular vocal harmony bit accompanied by polyrhythmic tribal percussion, and it closes with several minutes of sparse chimes and claps before it can really develop itself.
Here We Go Magic have made a fantastic album that is at once inseparable from its Brooklyn beginnings and transcendental of its place in time and space. It’s a fever dream, a dance party, and a little bit of melancholic soul. And as far as evolution goes, it’s an impressive leap forward in the career of a band that’s got the right mix of weird singularity and uncanny pop sensibilities to go wherever they want.