Seven years ago, The Magic Numbers’ debut album was receiving critical acclaim and massive sales, eventually going twice platinum and, for a brief period at least, putting indie pop firmly into the mainstream.
Things are now a little quieter on The Magic Numbers front. But bassist Michele Stodart has temporarily swapped her bass guitar and the company of her brother for an acoustic, and goes it alone with this self-produced solo debut. With some help from Joni Mitchell and Talk Talk engineer Phill Brown, Stodart has opted for country infused tales of love and heartbreak.
Opener Here’s To Somehow sets a bright country tone: pedal steel guitar, banjo and harmonica providing the catchy backdrop to Stodart’s vocal, featuring typical country twang and lyrics (“There’s a heart that’s left you empty, there’s a kiss that’s left you cold…”) Meanwhile, the single Take Your Loving Back may sound delicate, particularly with its gentle xylophone in the background, but it is a part-defiant, part-resigned take on a failed relationship – Stodart’s unyielding lyrics (“Take it from me, we’re better off this way… if you’re leaving tomorrow, and it’s a fact, don’t take your loving back”) contrast the resignation in her vocal, in turn asking whether her words shroud her actual feelings.
The downtempo You’ve Got A Hold Of My Heart is a standard case of unrequited love, with Stodart’s emotive lyrics (“You’ve got a hold of my heart, and you’re keeping it for somebody near you, and that’s the truth”), picked electric guitar and piano producing something heartfelt and intimate. Some Joni Mitchell can also be heard, perhaps thanks to Brown, in O Heart Of Mine, with Stodart’s vocal and guitar appropriately reminiscent of A Case Of You.
Stodart does vary it up somewhat. Foolish Love is towards the rockier end, with the country affectation in her vocal increased and typical – but perhaps now repetitive – country-like lyrics (“When you kiss me, why does it feel so cold?”), while List Of Don’ts, acting as a warning to a woman looking for a potential suitor (“Don’t be his walking stick”), is the least country-like song on the album, erring back towards indie pop through pleasing use of xylophones and horns. Finally, album closer In Between, a gradually building and semi-improvised sounding instrumental, offers a pleasant contrast to the rest of the album – no doubt Brown, with his Talk Talk experience, played a particular part, with Stodart’s echoic interlude and layered instruments somewhat reminiscent of Spirit Of Eden.
Stodart’s debut isn’t hugely adventurous, nor is it of the same magnitude of The Magic Numbers’ work. Nevertheless, she has put together a perfectly decent debut here. She can rest assured that she has the overall talent to make it on her own if she so wishes. Promising.