Magic Numbers' eponynous debut
spirits in the dead of winter
it 10 ounces gone from your imperial pint, or 10 ounces left? If
the former, then January can be a tough time.
The frenzy of The Holidays is over and you're opening the door
on a world full of stringent New Year's resolutions: ice, wind,
no football and nothing much else. Plus, you've spent all your money.
gloom? Blow your last $11.99 on the Magic Numbers' eponymous
But if you want to chase away the gloom, dig down for that last
$11.99 and blow it at the iTunes store (Does Soundscan track iTunes?
I want the Magic Numbers to know they've made another cash transaction.)
on a download of their eponymous debut CD.
There are two irrefutable reasons to listen to this album, which
is a nearly flawless concoction of '60s-inflected power pop from
the group with a built-in gimmick (the band is composed of two brother-sister
pairs, a fact which makes the Magic Numbers as dorky and thrillingly
anti-cool as their oft-referenced forebears, the Cowsills).
Reason one is track number four. If this album had been released
in late May instead of October, the song "Love Me Like You"
would have been blaring from car speakers all summer long. Songwriter
Romeo Stodart seems to subscribe to the ABBA theory of composition
if you've got one hook in a song, pile on three or four more
just to be safe.
"Love Me Like You," which seems genetically engineered
to be a radio hit, starts fast with '60s-themed peppy guitar and
handclaps before longing lyrics and sugar-sweet ooh/ahh backing
vocals emerge to up the ante. The simplistic strength of the composition
is poised to bust down doors before a frenzied, slightly obvious
passage (which likely kills in live performance) builds to the just-plain-sticky
Next, the perfect time to "bring things down a bit" with
a bridge that starts slowly before piling on the 36 hooks for a
mélange that raises the question: Where the hell did this
come from? Returning to the chorus, an old-fashioned outro/fanfare
ends things on an unsurprising high note.
forebears: the Cowsills got nothing on the Magic Numbers.
For further convincing, point your cursor to track 11, "Love's
A Game," which is too long to be a single but perfect as a
B-side. It's as assured, catchy and artfully indulgent as any song
has a right to be. It's so delicious that it's hard to write about.
Is it the slack beat? Knowing lyrics? Sweet harmonies? Insouciant
For one thing, there's the laughing, c'est la vie attitude in lyrics
such as "I'm an honest mistake that you made, did you mean
to?" or "love is just a lie, happens all the time, girl
I know this much is true." But if those lyrics don't connect,
listen to how they're delivered with a sexy, lazy drawl flowing
off the tongue like tupelo honey.
Let's talk about the solo break at 2 minutes, 45 seconds: the sweetly
loping downward trip of the pocketed bass line, the flabby one-note
wheezing of the harmonium, the tasty guitar licks. Then things stop
cold for three in-unison tugboat-sounding blasts before that bass
line solidly steps in again like slipping into a bubbling, steaming
hot tub on a January night.
These long-haired white boys and girls have no problem tightening
up as necessary and see nothing wrong with backing up their demonstration
of feel and dynamics with some tasty vibraphone.
ABBA, '60s influences and unrepentant power-pop from a dual brother-sister
music group sounds a bit square though, don't it? Too true, and
cutting edge don't exactly describe the Magic Numbers.
akin to ABBA: the Magic Numbers share a ray of jangly sunshine.
The band sometimes has a hard time ending songs, and the barnburners
on the album are outnumbered by equally catchy and well-written
slow songs that probably appeal to the older crowd.
Plus, as a band that does what it does nearly perfectly, the group
is in severe danger of having no coolness factor at all.
Which just makes it all the better for those of us who aren't afraid
to look dorky. The Magic Numbers is a super-good reason, a ray of
jangly shimmering sunshine, to keep your spirits up in the dead