I have a completely-filled 120 GB iPod classic, the record crate of the digital age, containing my entire music library. I’m listening to each release in alphabetical order by record title – kind of a virtual archaeological dig. These are my findings.
…Unless I decide to skip around the alphabet. I’ll periodically review newer releases or records that I’m really into at the time. This is adapted from a blurb I wrote for Bank Robber Music, a music licensing company.
How pastel can one band sound? Despite the fact that you can’t actually hear colors, Here We Go Magic glide through an impressionist painting of an album, smearing through greens and reds on their way to yellows and blues. Which is completely appropriate – bandleader and sole constant member Luke Temple graduated from the School of the Museum of Fine Arts in Boston, and made a living painting murals in upscale New York apartments before dedicating more of his time to music. The songs here certainly sound like they were crafted by an artist well-versed in the visual medium, mistily palpable, as though seen through the haze of a sprinkler on a bright summer afternoon. Appropriate, then, that the album cover offers a primer in exactly which colors (mentioned above) you’ll need to visualize when listening. Strange shapes swirl in and out of each other, playful and weird, and I’ll be damned if I don’t want to rip into a box of freeze pops and down as many nebulous, frozen, neon-flavored ices as I can. (Those reds on the cover may be the titular pigeons, and if so, I’ll pass on that freeze pop flavor.)
The record dives right into the psychedelic pop of early Pink Floyd or the Elephant 6 collective with “Hibernation,” a track high on treble, including the bass which sounds cribbed from an early Devo record. The mix is good, and remains so throughout – it’s hard to pinpoint a good psychedelic feel without thickening up the sound, a trick overemployed by some drug-friendly bands. Here We Go Magic are instead crisp, helped by a generous dose of reverb, but each instrument is clear. Temple’s voice, while high and reedy, at times recalling Grandaddy’s Jason Lytle, is mixed perfectly, low in the mix, but not too low to be drowned out. (He tends to compose parts that favor his voice though, and he boosts it at times with echo effects – it’s hard to tell if he’s double tracked, but that certainly wouldn’t hurt either.) First single “Collector” follows, breezing in on a propulsive rhythm, watery keys and guitars riding on its back, as Temple exclaims “I’ve got a mild fascination for collectors,” detailing throughout the rest of the song the habits of so-called packrats. I can’t imagine that he’d worry too much about the accumulation of items, just this passing observation of those who do. In fact, as he proclaims in the next song, “Casual,” its vibe fitting its title to a T, “It’s casual, / not heartbreaking. / It’s casual, / not mind-shaking.” Nothing to worry about, right?
The songs get slower as we hit the middle and end of the record, with the exceptions of the swinging “Bottom Feeder” and hopefully-second-single “Old World United,” and the psychedelia takes greater prominence, such as on the beautiful “Surprise” and “Moon,” the latter bubbling with synth noise, the titular subject warping in the thick haze of a warm summer evening. But that’s some thick haze. In fact, in these songs you can imagine walking into the Here We Go Magic’s rehearsal space – the band tuning instruments, checking levels – and being greeted by a thick, transparent liquid sheen that envelopes your perception of the room. As the band begins to play, each instrument chimes and swirls and each beat punctuates time, and more pastels explode from the surface of the liquid, warping the view into a glorious rippling puddle (insert stock Donnie Darko reference here) – it’s like watching the band in the reflection of the craziest lake you’ve ever seen. (Note: Drugs not included with purchase of album.) “F.F.A.P.,” my favorite song on the album, builds to a climactic bridge that features a nifty brief burst of distorted Malkmusian guitar solo, the only real guitar freakout on the record. Rocking through the goop, indeed.
“Land of Feeling,” the last “proper” song on the album, is a beautiful slow meditation, but it leads to “Vegetable or Native,” the title being the only lyric in this weird psych gem – early Pink Floyd references are extremely appropriate here. The album ends with the instrumental “Herbie I Love You, Now I Know,” wrapping the dreamlike final stage of the record. But despite the psychotropic haze, Pigeons is at heart an effortless pop record, and sticks like rainbow bubblegum to your brain stem. Somewhere, Syd Barrett cackles gleefully.
RIYL: Elephant 6 bands (Olivia Tremor Control/Elf Power), Syd Barrett, Grandaddy