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Audio Reviews
by Here We Go Magic
Secretly Canadian (2010)
There’s something about the warmer months—late spring through early autumn, roughly April through October in the northern hemisphere if the weather’s willing—that lends itself remarkably well to listening to new music. There’s the heat and added daylight hours which go hand in hand with concert tours and multi-day festivals, the bustle and crowd of the interstates, pavilions, stadiums, and fairgrounds which bear witness to the annual musical pilgrim season. And, hand in hand with the hajj of touring bands, there is the quintessentially American joy of cruising down long stretches of rural highways and back roads with the windows down and the stereo blasting, the rush and rasp of passing trees and cool breezes which cut through the burgeoning farmers’ fields and rub up against the roar of the engine, the blare of a mighty riff, and the muted strains emanating from your own throat as you sing and shout along with your newly-discovered singles. It might not live up to the expectations of audiophilic sound-sticklers, but you would be hard-pressed to find a purer listening experience than the summertime drive.

Which is what I expected to find in Here We Go Magic’s sophomore album, Pigeons—that is: the heat and sun and indefatigable energy of summer in a compact, condensed, and encapsulated form. It’s a tall order, to be sure. But, judging from lead-off video/single “Collector”, it is hardly an order which the NYC-based five-piece of Here We Go Magic is unable to fill. Just so: Jennifer Turner leads the way with a head-bobbing bass line, frontman Luke Temple and fellow guitarist Michael Bloch brighten things up with jangling six-string riffs, Peter Hale brings the kids out on the floor with toe-tapping percussion, keyboardist Kristina Lieberson polishes the lot with ethereal synth, and, lead by Temple, the full band joins in for an airy verse-chorus-verse account of tschotchkes and bizarre accumulations of whatnot. As far as summery singles go, “Collector” is fun and emphatic and (lyrically) more than a little ridiculous, and it makes a terrific pitch for Pigeons.

Which is part of the problem. The thing is, prejudging (and then pre-ordering) an album based on the merits of one song is a bit like playing a musical game of Russian Roulette and hoping to catch a sonic bullet at every pass—you spin the album, drop the needle, and pray that each song is as loaded as the one which first blew you away. Naturally, the odds of that happening are slim and none, and slim just left town. Sorry, hoss.

So it was with some mixed measure of trepidation and disappointment that, as I pulled out of my driveway one morning, I encountered the languid blend of watery bass, upbeat percussion, overly reserved/resigned vocals, and eerily discordant guitar and synth accents in Pigeons’ entry track, “Hibernation”. While its constituent elements do join together to create an overall solid tune, “Hibernation” is not necessarily as awake or as arresting as one might hope, making for an awkwardly sedate way to start an album marketed on the merits of a rather pop-friendly single. That, and it was a subtle reminder that I would rather have been sleeping myself… not exactly a good thing for the morning commute.

After “Collector” works its bright-and-punchy summer-song magic, it might seem as though Pigeons will pick up the pace from there on out. Then Temple & co. once again put their feet up for the dreamily laid-back snare rattling, synth droning, guitar chiming, and bass burbling of “Casual”. Follow that up with the oh-so-soothing Pinback-meets-Animal Collective bass- and drum-lead meandering of “Surprise” and the plodding, lonesome pop musings, shiny guitar shambling, and tweefully delicious couplets of “Bottom Feeder”—“You were not looking at me, I was handsome in all the wrong places, lost like an unknown island in a sea of bewildering faces”—and you might find yourself hard-pressed not to veer off to the shoulder and take a quick nap. In which case, the looped guitar shimmer and ebbing, echoing sonic sea of “Moon” would likely carry you off to dreamland without too much trouble, only to rouse you from your slumber with “Old World United” and its insistent synth trills and forceful rhythmic combo.

Honestly, for as much as I may find Pigeons calming to the point of unconsciousness-inducing, Turner’s dexterous fingerwork on the low-end provides a regularly arresting sonic thread to follow throughout, even in the midst of the synth-bedecked psychedelia of “F.F.A.P.”, the lazy haze of “Landslide of Feeling”, the skittering throw-off rounds of “Vegetable or Native”, and the instrumental outro “Herbie I Love You, Now I Know”. It’s not enough to make the album, but her motile bass lines help one to stay focused (and awake) while listening.

And, luckily for Here We Go Magic, Pigeons is a grower, and a strong enough album to survive the likely disappointment of new listeners who were expecting something a bit more lively and energetic—provided that they stick around for multiple spins and long drives, that is.
Posted by: Tom Körp

Audio Reviews (June 10th, 2010)

Tags: audio, reviews, here we go magic, pigeons, secretly canadian