Review : Here We Go Magic - A Different Ship
SlantmagazineFor DIY recording artists, the appeal of making music in your bedroom goes beyond the obvious budgetary considerations. At its very core, the lo-fi aesthetic is invaluable in setting a greater mood: The raw, atmosphere-heavy result of using tape-cassette recorders and intentional quality degradation can evoke an intimacy and allure few lyrics or instrumentation could ever achieve. It's the reason Ernest Greene's Within and Without, steeped in multiple layers of worn, analogue-fueled idiosyncrasies, remains a master class in how to bolster melody with mood.
That same purposeful approach to coarse, no-frills recording elevated bare simplicity into haunting elegance on Here We Go Magic's The January EP. On tracks like "Hollywood," a three-note acoustic refrain is quite literally electrified with crosswire noise and the faint humming of cheap machinery. The buzzing is hardly random, but instead serves as a textural counterpoint to the warmth of the song's folksy guitar and choral parts; without it, "Hollywood" is rather benign.
Which is, unfortunately, a rather appropriate word to describe the Brooklyn band's maddening third full-length release, A Different Ship, in which they dilute the cerebral lo-fi so adequately rendered on The January EP in favor of play-it-straight, predictable baroque pop and relegate their obvious strengths to mere collateral. That's not to say that what results is unlistenable: Tracks like "How Do I Know" capture a troubadour-like charm from the clean, acoustic indie pop that Here We Go Magic has suddenly embraced. "How do I know if I love you, when all these things come and go?" leadman Luke Temple croons over the light, steady beat, a vocal-and-percussion combination that reappears on similar easy listeners like the title track and "Over the Ocean."...full text
BbcWhen they play live, Here We Go Magic’s intricately constructed indie-pop often spins off into extended, ecstatic jams, clearly descended from the Grateful Dead and Quicksilver Messenger Service. But where those bands looked back to blues and 1950s rock‘n’roll, stretching it until it took on mythic proportions, HWGM are like a late-60s psychedelic band dreaming their way towards the perfected machinelike repetitions of Krautrock.
It was the band’s live show, even at its most ragged one hungover morning at Glastonbury 2010, that caught the ear of Radiohead producer Nigel Godrich, and it’s that counterfactual retro sensibility – “a 60s version of science fiction,” in bandleader Luke Temple’s description – that infuses the sharply focused songs on A Different Ship. That decade’s stamp is most discernible on the Latin-inflected melody of the menace-fringed title-track, which taps the same vein of anxious psychedelia running through Love’s Forever Changes. Anxiety of various kinds presides over the album, with every song taking sides in a debate on the credits and debits of intimacy. Hard to Be Close quickly establishes the theme, the melody’s unexpected shift from major to minor amplifying the lyric’s push and pull between intimacy and isolation.
The tussle continues throughout, Alone But Moving asserting an independence that’s immediately undercut by the lines from I Believe in Action: “Nobody wants to live in the middle / Cos nobody wants to be left alone.” This song exemplifies the sonic clarity Godrich has brought to A Different Ship: a trancelike wave rises from a chicken-scratch riff and crests in a buzzing synth chord, the song embodying its message by performing a single, smooth transition, then ending. Make Up Your Mind is similarly direct, its fusion of motorik funk, chanted vocals and synth splashes recalling the calibrated techno-pop of Yello; and this impressive detailing is even more noticeable in the album’s quieter passages....full text
PopmattersBrooklyn’s Here We Go Magic is a band that has been growing, physically and sonically. Originally a project for folk songwriter Luke Temple to have a brand name associated with his Shins meets Simon and Garfunkel approach to lo-fi songwriting, the “band” swelled to a five piece, released 2010’s Pigeons, and is now expanding yet again by snagging Radiohead producer (credited sometimes as a sixth member of said group, such is his influence) Nigel Godrich to helm the production deck of their A Different Ship, the third album under the Here We Go Magic moniker. You may be wondering what Mob favour Temple and company had to pull in to get such an appreciated producer to work on an indie album, but the story goes that the band played the Glastonbury Festival in June 2010 deprived of sleep, but managed to perform well enough to impress both Godrich and Thom Yorke, who would later call the band his favourite of the festival, both of whom were in the front row during the set. Godrich would go on to see the band a few more times on tour in Europe, and then propose that he aid the group on their next release. Instant magic!
Well, I can say one thing with absolute certainty: Here We Go Magic have basically turned in the album that Radiohead should have made immediately following In Rainbows. It’s a tunefully, poppy affair, clearly influenced by ‘70s Krautrock, with a completely layered sound that invites you to peel away at it to get to all of its carefully structured secrets. And you listen to A Different Ship and have to wonder: how much has working with Radiohead influenced Godrich as a producer, or how much Radiohead has benefited the other way around? It’s a puzzle, but one thing is clear: Godrich’s stamp of genius is all over A Different Ship.
Not that Here We Go Magic would have necessarily needed Godrich’s help, per se, because the vast majority of songs to be found on the record reach the pinnacle of A-list indie rock material, twisting their way inside your head and staying there giddily. However, Godrich’s touch is apparent in the twitchy, glitchy metronomic drumming of tracks such as “Hard to be Close” and first single “Make Up Your Mind”, and the instruments are gently piled on top of each other without competing with each other for volume. A Different Ship‘s deck is so slippery slick that, if it were a real boat, you’d be falling down in the lurching current and unable to get back up. That isn’t to say that the disc is overproduced: it is, in fact, so properly produced that it gives most of the 10 songs (including a brief minute-long introductory track) a full body, going down as perfectly as an expensive bottle of fine red. In fact, if A Different Ship had a taste, it would be one of sheer ambrosia. Clearly, Godrich’s hand adds a certain extra spice to the proceedings, and elevates the sheer peerless nature of the songcraft to another level entirely. As a statement, A Different Ship is rock solid, and records like this seemingly hardly come along as often as they should....full text
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