Written by Erin Mathis
My first encounter with Magic Man was last fall when they opened for Walk the Moon. I’ve found that typically, with openers, the crowd is more into their iPhones than the music on stage, but when this band from Boston began to play, something “magic” happened. A general consensus swept through the room – these guys were definitely worth paying attention to. As a result, phones lowered, heads began to bob, and I got excited, knowing that I just found a new band to fall in love with.
Fast forward to almost ten months later and I’m stoked to download their very first full-length album: Before the Waves. After listening to it over and over and over again, I’ve come to a happy conclusion – that Magic Man has time traveled here from the eighties. And though their synth-heavy beats, distant sounding voices, and low-toned bass place them about thirty years too late on the musical timeline, it’s more than okay, because other bands are doing it too.
Just take a look at Bleachers. Their sound, and specifically the song “Rollercoaster” is incredibly reminiscent of Bruce Springsteen’s 1984 hit “Dancing in the Dark”. Also, Twin Shadow might as well hop on tour with Simple Minds (the band that brought us the classic Breakfast Club soundtrack hit, and my mother’s all-time favorite song, “Don’t You Forget About Me”). And finally, bands like Chvrches and Little Daylight are combining their upbeat synth-textured sound with ever-so-sweet female vocals to deliver some seriously catchy songs. Moral of the story is – eighties retro has arrived, and it’s here to stay.
So let’s get into Magic Man’s new album. First things first – the cover art is stunning. The image captures a rocky ocean shore at nightfall, with colorful streams of dancing light caught in a long exposure. Next, the music is just as fantastic. Several songs featured on the album are straight off their You Are Here EP, starting with “Texas,” a song essentially made for summer, consisting of a “bonfire burning tonight” and a romantic interest of summers past. Also from their EP, are “Every Day,” hands-down the catchiest song off the album, and my personal favorite, “Paris.” It begins with an alluring piano intro and moves into a heartbreaking story that makes you want to sing, no – shout, along with the lyrics.
“Chicagoland” is another standout, only because I’ve found it impossible to sit still while jamming out to it in my car. It’s one of those songs that possesses your body and turns you into a dancing fool, but in a good way (unless you’re driving, in which case it’s just plain dangerous). From there, the album slows down a bit with “Honey,” a beautiful love song written about a one-of-a-kind sweetheart with hair that smells like, you guessed it, honey. Apart from the lyrics, the best part of this song is the gentle backup vocals that female keyboardist Justine Bowe provides. If there’s one thing that’s missing from this album, it’s more Justine. Bands like Of Monsters and Men and The Colourist show us just how breathtaking indie duets can be, so I wonder why Magic Man hasn’t gone in a similar direction, even for a song or two. Fingers crossed that they’ll consider doing so for their next album.
Another notable track is “Tonight”. It’s a song for friends. More specifically, friends that enjoy a good ol’ walk down the main street of their hometown. Like many of the other songs off this album, it has a nostalgic feel to it, and the repeated line, “tonight, we’re all believers,” brings me back to the days of concocting neighborhood legends with childhood friends.
The album wraps up with some more extremely 80’s-sounding songs like “Out of Mind” and “Too Much.” These songs highlight the vocal talents of lead singer Alex Caplow, whose deep quivering voice can be compared to that of The Killers’ Brandon Flowers. Finally, the last track – “It All Starts Here,” is the lengthiest song on the album, but also the most passionate. The lyrics, “I’ve got a restless heart burning up inside”, comments on the intense passion that this band has for creating music.
Currently, Magic Man is gaining momentum by touring with well-known bands like Panic! At the Disco, and performing at popular festivals such as Firefly and Music Midtown. However, I expect a headlining tour coming soon. For any band, the release of an album marks the start of a new journey, and I am beyond excited to see where Magic Man will go.