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Here We Go Magic - Pigeons

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Artist: Here We Go Magic

Album: Pigeons

Label: Secretly Canadian

Review date: Jun. 9, 2010

Here We Go Magic frontman Luke Temple has a sweeter version of Paul Simon’s brainy nasal tenor — as if he got a hint of Garfunkel, too. A former solo troubadour, Temple knocked out an EP and a pair of sparsely arranged full-lengths before taking on his current name and accompanists. With his new collaborators Temple has continued to channel Simon, and not just from the era of “Me and Julio Down by the Schoolyard,” but also of Graceland vintage. In addition to dabbling with afro-pop rhythms, Here We Go Magic have frequently sanded down the hooks of Shins and Rogue Wave-style songcraft to fit the confines of jittery, repetitive electro-pop.

Coming on the heels of a self-titled debut released last year, Here We Go Magic’s sophomore effort Pigeons puts earlier tribal inflections on the back burner, leaving them for the album’s last two tracks: the virtually wordless, multilayered percussive grooves “Vegetable or Native” and “Herbie I Love You, Now I Know.” The bulk of the set oscillates between antsy synth lines in faint fuzz and mellow, often tedious atmospherics.

Fleet afoot despite its many layers, album-standout “Collector” is propelled by angular and addictive interplayed guitars, quiet but blisteringly quick bass, heavily-echoed keyboard, and triumphant trumpet at the bridge. A catalyst of restless leg syndrome, this charming ode to “mild fascination” ably embodies the sort neurosis characteristic of an unabashed collector’s mentality. Similarly toned but less effective are “Old World United” and the album’s opener, “Hibernation.” The latter, for instance, kicks things off with a bass line and high synth pairing that eerily recalls the Talking Heads’ “Once in a Lifetime,” but, unlike its iconic reference point, remains rather stagnant, never breaking into an irresistible chorus.

The more sedate numbers are a similarly mixed bag. Serene, slightly melancholic alt-country with a repetition-less one line refrain, “Bottom Feeder” plods along affectingly enough. Splitting the album’s tempo difference in half — with slow, ethereal vocals and sound effects atop a frenzied rhythm track — “Moon” boasts an audacity of echo-suffused monotony to rival sometimes-divine Kurt Vile. On “Surprise” and “Land of Feeling,” though, the mood that’s repeated never endears itself to begin with, and the lack of melodic movement — much less memorable, anchoring hooks — becomes conspicuous and disappointing.

Marked by inconsistent, not fully formed songwriting, Here We Go Magic’s new tracks also make for an indecisive, if not bipolar, collection. They abruptly shift back and forth between the frantic tinkering of synthesized blips and bleeps and the exhausted resignation of slow, spacey soundscapes. Ultimately, oblivion seems to gain the upper hand.

If Pigeons is something of a mess — a musical splattering to mimic the abstract splashes of color on the record’s front cover — it is, like its album art, a resolutely restrained chaos. With Temple’s voice generally mixed at low volumes, doubled and/or surrounded by reverb, and the music always draped in at least a thin coat of electronic haze, Pigeons is often in danger of getting lost in the ether.

By Benjamin Ewing

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