In a brief but eventful two-year span, Brooklyn’s Here We Go Magic graduated from part-time bedroom project to full-time band, expanding in both personnel and creativity. And with last year’s excellent Pigeons, the group made their defining statement as a formidable psych-pop act, streamlining the shuffled deck of ideas on their debut into a more cohesive and tightly crafted piece of indie rock. Yet they haven’t slowed their pace in the slightest in 2011, having found the time in their busy touring schedule to drop a six-track set titled The January EP. The productivity alone is worth a pat on the back, but even more commendable is the strength of the EP itself, its material largely on par with the stunning pop tunes on Pigeons.
Less concerned with some of the more explicitly Afrobeat or krautrock inspired material that popped up on previous releases, Here We Go Magic mostly focuses on their prettier, dense psychedelic pop songwriting. They sound as instrumentally tight as ever, but not quite as frenetic. The songs here, while dense and rhythmically complex, seem a bit more relaxed and carefully arranged. The EP’s first track, “Tulip,” is the closest the group has ever come to a classic rock song, pulsing and swaying via a taut progression of major chords. Yet it slowly morphs into a dreamy, blissful chorus delivered with the kind of twinkling, ethereal beauty that the band has been known to dress up even their most frantic material. And the verses on “Hands In the Sky” build from a skeletal arrangement of diaphanous synthesizer and gently clacking drums, beautifully crystallizing into a gorgeous space-pop chorus.
None of this is to say that Here We Go Magic have gotten any less weird, they’re just finding more melodic vehicles for their idiosyncratic songwriting. “Backwards In Time” is something akin to Seventeen Seconds-era Cure twisting “Don’t Fear The Reaper” into sexy, danceable new shapes. And EP closer “Mirror Me” finds the band at their most dissonant, Luke Temple’s voice and guitar playing a straightforward foil to the distorted drums and abrasive sounds that erupt behind them. Yet it all eventually comes together into something unexpectedly pretty, much like the other five tracks here. Well into their third year as a band, Here We Go Magic continue to find new ways of harnessing their unique energy only for it to catalyze into something even stronger than what they’ve yielded before.
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.