Everyone needs a hug sometimes. When your heart is feeling bruised and battered, and you feel there’s no more good in the world, sometimes you just need someone to put their arms round you and tell you everything’s going to be ok. The Magic Numbers are the equivalent of a big aural hug, and they’re here to make your world bearable again.
For a band who just seem to have appeared from nowhere, they’ve had a fair old chequered history. Romeo Stodart and his sister Michele were born and raised in Trinidad, before moving to New York for a few years. Then, after moving to Ealing in London, they met up with Sean Gannon and his sister Angela and The Magic Numbers were born. Two sets of siblings in a band is unusual enough, but nothing quite prepares you for the sheer beauty of The Magic Numbers’ music.
It was hinted at in their singles Hymn For Her and Forever Lost, and when they guested on the Chemical Brothers‘ Push The Button album they were the undoubted highlight. But debut albums tend to be missing something, whether that be lack of confidence or lack of killer tunes. Not this time though – the Stodarts and Gannons have produced what may well turn out to the album of the year.
To paraphrase an old footballing cliche, this is certainly an album of two halves. The first half is full of the more commercial, poppy side to the album, with gems like the wonderfully jangly single Forever Lost and Long Legs – which has such an joyful little guitar riff it almost made this reviewer do a silly little dance in the street while walking to work.
Of the faster tracks here though, it’s Love Me Like You that’s the highlight. Handclaps, harmonies, summery guitars are all employed to blissful effect, before slowly building up to a chorus that just explodes all over the speakers. It’s slated to be the band’s next single – trust me, you won’t be able to escape it and you will never grow tired of it.
But it’s the vulnerability of these songs that makes this album so addictive. The Mule is an emotional journey through Romeo Stodart’s heart that’s both traumatic and therapeutic: if “I’m a no-good, used-up, bruised-up, fucked up boy/who gets beat up by just looking at you/Oh, I’m a lonely soul” doesn’t have you blinking back the tears then you’re a better person than I am.
However, it’s when we come to Which Way Is Happy that the album takes a darker, yet life-affirming turn. This is the first of some tender ballads that tear your heart out and put it all back together again. I See You I See Me is a spell-binding duet between Romeo and Angela that recalls the classic moments between Gram Parsons and Emmylou Harris. When Angela sings “I wanna tell you that I’ll never love anyone else”, it’s enough to break your heart.
This Love recalls Nick Drake at his most fragile, with a soft string section underpinning Michele and Angela’s sumptuous backing vocals, while Love Is A Game surprisingly has a Motown feel to it. Wheels On Fire meanwhile showcases the Magic Numbers’ way with harmonies – it’s easy to see why Hal, who the band released a joint single with last year, are such fans.
Hymn For Her finishes the album (rather strangely as a bonus, hidden track – any other band would be shouting a song of this quality from the rooftops) and again demonstrates the band’s unerring ability to make the listener feel happy and sad at the same time: “I’ve been hurt before, but all the scars have rearranged/It won’t hurt to choose the path that we all walk along” sings Romeo, and if that’s not a motto to live your life by, then I don’t know what is.
They said they were going to make a classic, and on this evidence it’s hard to disagree with them. So buy this album and keep it near you. When you’re feeling a bit down, put it on and let the Magic Numbers make everything alright again.