Connect with us


The Magic Numbers – The Magic Numbers

The Magic Numbers are the kind of band that you just sit back and enjoy.



Hype. Nobody likes this word, but inevitably at some point we all get sucked into it. Yes I’m talking to you with the Vines record and you over there with your Muse record, and let’s not for get you over there in the corner clutching your Clap Your Hands Say Yeah! record. You all fell for it. It’s unfortunate to be manipulated in such a way. But hey, it happens.

So that brings us to the Magic Numbers. The Magic Numbers are currently riding the wave of borderline over-hyped press. However, much like in the case of Franz Ferdinand or even the Strokes, the Magic Numbers self-titled debut is actually really good.

The Magic Numbers are the kind of band that you just sit back and enjoy. It’s not difficult to listen to; they aren’t trying to challenge the listener. They just want you to listen and it is an absolute pleasure to do so.

The first half of the record is packed with up-tempo numbers that are so bright and infectious that is almost creepy. Kind of like the Polyphonic Spree but without the 900 members and numerous hits of acid. Tracks like “Love Me Like You” and the current single “Forever Lost” are guaranteed to be stuck in your head for weeks upon weeks. Lead singer Romeo Stodart’s soft voice, resembling Cat Stevens, packs so much earnestness into it that you forget about the fact that the lyrics dabble too much in are borderline cliché and rather general.

As catchy and fun as the first half of the record is to listen to when the Magic Numbers slow down they really show off their undeniable talent. The Magic Numbers work in their Motown/early R’n’B influences on these later songs to great effect. The peak of this record is the song “I See You, You See Me” which might actually be the best song recorded this year. Granted, I’m a bit of a sucker for duets, but this song is flawless, taking the listener along for the ride as they describe the tale of two lovers who shouldn’t be together, but, of course, can’t stay apart. The only problem with this song is the fact that at this point the listener wonders, “Why aren’t there more female (either Michele Stodart, or Angela Gannon, its not made clear by the liner notes) vocals in the rest of the songs?!”

The Magic Numbers self-tiled debut ends on a triumphant note with the mesmerizing “Hymn For Her.” “Hymn For Her’s” humble hush beings make the climax of the song that much more satisfying. A perfect ending for one of the most enjoyable records released this year. Well worth the unbearable hype.

(Heavenly / Capitol Records)


Berwanger – Watching a Garden Die

Josh Berwanger continues to evolve as a songwriter



At the height of Vagrant Records’ early success in the late 90s, the label was buoyed by the incredible draw of their two biggest names- The Get Up Kids and Saves the Day. And while those two bands took a chunk of the notoriety, there were plenty of great bands that called the label home. One of those bands was The Anniversary. The Lawrence, Kansas band shared musical similarities with both TGUK and Saves the Day, but were unafraid to branch off into slightly more synthesised terrain that gave their songs an added element. Coupled with their super easy to digest harmonies and fantastic male/female vocals, songs like “The D in Detroit” still has a place in countless “favorite playlists” all these years later.

Since their initial break-up, guitarist and vocalist Josh Berwanger has been busy writing and recording a bevy of music under the moniker Berwanger. His recent discography is a talented kaleidoscope of songs that traverse genres from folk and indie, to more rock and straight forward singer/songwriter fare. There was plenty to like on his 2016 album Exorcism Rock, an album that delved into a little bit of psychedelia and fuzzed out indie rock. His 2017 album And the Star Invaders saw a gradual move away from the more electrified to the imaginative kind of singer/songwriter we’ve seen from the likes of Devendra Banhart. True to form, Berwanger continues to evolve as a songwriter, and his latest, Watching A Garden Die, is the next chapter in his thriving songwriter cabinet.

The gloomily titled record is mostly upbeat and diverse. While he may have shown a kinship to indie/folk songwriting of the Banharts and Obersts of the world previously, Watching a Garden Die features the kind of seasoned and more classic toned work you’d find on a Crosby, Stills & Nash record, or even a Paul Simon record. Songs like the softly, almost whispered “Even the Darkness Doesn’t Know”, and quietly moody, introspective “Paper Blues” (until that electric guitar solo hits) harks back to a time long ago of unfettered hair and soulful folk music. The album’s best moment is probably a combination of the wistful, pedal-steel toned Americana of “When I Was Young” and the equally effective, spacey indie rock of “The Business of Living”. The latter giving Grandaddy a run for their money in that music department. These two songs in particular showcase an artist fully aware and capable of his abilities to craft music that’s personal but exhibits the kind of draw you want from a record this close to the heart.

The album doesn’t have the more ruckus moments Berwanger exhibited in his earlier work (outside of perhaps, the more upbeat power-pop, new wavy “Bad Vibrations”). At times the album takes just a few listens to grab you. But when you listen to songs like the spritely “Friday Night” and the somber reflection of the twangy “I Keep Telling Myself” a few times more, you find the depth of the record. There are elements that reveal themselves on the second, third, fourth listen, and that’s rewarding.

Berwanger’s songwriting ability was never in doubt, and his new material continues to expand his songwriting reach. Watching a Garden Die, while not a frantic effort, is quiet composure.

(Wiretap Records)

Continue Reading


Fences – Failure Sculptures

Failure Sculptures is a steady outing



Christopher Mansfield, under his alter-ego, Fences, has made himself well known through the collaborations with Macklemore and Tegan & Sara. It’s set him up with well-deserved excitement for his new album Failure Sculptures. The genre of pop scores a good reputation with artists like Fences. I wouldn’t necessarily categorize this album as pop, but Failure Sculptures has catchy songs that will appeal to a large scale, however it keeps the integrity of accomplished music. Each song provides a story that allows you to drift into your own thoughts. He also uses idioms like there is no tomorrow.

“A Mission” is a lower-toned song that launches the album with an echoing sound of voice and guitar, and it sets an example of the whimsical type of music that is shown throughout the album. Mansfield has a way with words and was definitely listening in English class. A+ for storytelling. OK, you twisted my arm, I’ll point out some idioms: “body sways like trees in a storm” sung in “Paper Route” and “lately I just pass by like a cloud” heard in “Brass Band”. It’s a great way to paint a picture in your listeners head.  

“Same Blues” exposes a folk side to Fences. It has a lovely addition of cello in the background. It is enchanting and flows so well, which makes a terrific inclusion to the album. The plucking and acoustic sound of “Wooden Dove” has a powerful effect, and suits the song well. It follows the theme of echoes and storytelling. Although “War Kid” is a song about divorce, it is a pleasant way to end the album, and it features more idioms; “tears falling like bombs“.

This type of music allows you to drift and flow in and out of your own thoughts. It’s a friendly haunting and emotionally driven set of songs (and don’t forget about the idioms), and while it is quite predictable in a pleasant way, Failure Sculptures is a steady outing.


Continue Reading

Popular Things