On his first two albums, Hold A Match For a Gasoline World and Snowbeast, Luke Temple established himself as a golden-throated indie-folk troubadour. His songs were beautiful, his voice even more so, and he earned the praise of critics and peers alike. Temple’s latest project, a collaborative “band” effort (though still largely Temple’s gig), Here We Go Magic is a sharp departure from his sweet and humble indie folk tunes. Rather than carving out a set of singer-songwriter’s tunes, Here We Go Magic finds Temple & Co. playing a more sonically expansive, playful riff on ’70s art rock, new wave and African sounds.
From the get-go, Here We Go Magic kick up a playful and intriguing blend of sounds. Leadoff track “Only Pieces” builds up layers of African-inspired percussion rhythms, as Temple chants with his Paul Simon-like tone, “what’s the use in dyin’, dyin’/ if I don’t know when.” “Fangela,” meanwhile, takes on a more traditional approach to songwriting, but with big, anthemic synthesizer sounds soaring above a deceptively folk-sounding melody. “Ahab” brings a deep groove, with Temple’s multi-tracked vocals sounding oddly otherworldly. Three songs in, and Here We Go Magic have already spread out over numerous, completely different sounds, all unified by a thread of world-weary, psychedelic, synth-driven sounds.
With track four, “Tunnelvision,” HWGM changes course yet again, strumming away at a trippy folk melody that could have fit in well alongside the denser tracks from Animal Collective’s Sung Tongs. “Ghost List,” however, is an ambient track, a soft whirring that escalates into a looping white noise din with intermittent bursts of distortion. The album’s second half begins to become increasingly abstract, with tracks like “Babyohbabyijustcantstanditanymore” and ” Nat’s Alien” charting a path away from melody and into odd textures and ambient waves. Yet the record closes with “Everything’s Big,” a folky waltz that has more in common with Temple’s solo material than anything else here. It’s sad and romantic, with accordion weeping beneath Temple’s idiosyncratic yelps, and it’s also a hell of a tune.
Here We Go Magic’s debut album is a collection of intriguing sonic pathways and delightful surprises. In fact, on the whole, this album is a delightful surprise, not the sort of thing you’d expect from a humble troubadour like Temple, but the kind of thing that you’d certainly want him to continue. Here We Go Magic may not be Temple’s full time gig, but this album is so good, he might consider clearing a little more space in his schedule for it.
Jeff Terich is the founder and editor of Treble. He's been writing about music for 20 years and has been published at American Songwriter, Bandcamp Daily, Reverb, Spin, Stereogum, uDiscoverMusic, VinylMePlease and some others that he's forgetting right now. He's still not tired of it.