I see The Magic Numbers being huge in America in a couple of months. They won over the UK earlier this year with their debut self-titled long-player, and it’s really only a matter of time before the Yanks start sharing in the Numbers love. With the success of Dan Brown’s The Da Vinci Code, The Magic Numbers couldn’t have come at a more opportune time for American audiences, likely being able to capitalize on the “Math is Fun!” gimmick, should they choose to. But they won’t. They’re too good for that. No, no marketing scheme is going to make the Magic Numbers famous; their music is good enough to do it for them.
Like a less Brian Wilson influenced Beulah, a less art-rock informed New Pornographers or a modern update of The Mamas and the Papas, whose name seems to be dropped every time the Numbers’ is, this band is that perfect pop band that writers, bloggers and nostalgic old rockers fantasize over. And what’s more, they have all the qualities that most music fans hold so dear in their pop bands: sincerity, unaffectedness and raw talent. The two sets of siblings in the band, the Stodarts and the Gannons, masterfully create nifty, summertime, carefree pop music of the most hand-clappy kind, complete with lovely vocal harmonies and Romeo Stodart’s warm, friendly leads. And what’s more, Sean and Romeo have some pretty righteous Kenny Loggins beards going on, which only help to bolster their ’70s AM pop vibe.
Jangly is the name of the game on opening track “Mornings Eleven,” guitars a-strummin’, putting The Strokes’ “Last Nite” to shame with its more joyous update of that song’s chords and bassline. Romeo hits a slight falsetto high with his opening cry of “You’re in denial/you’re in den-iiiiiii-allll,” cueing the crash of drums and vibrant explosion of melody that ensues. “Forever Lost,” the current single, mines a similarly simple bassline and a wonderfully melancholy chorus, making for an oddly bittersweet moment amidst so many vivacious highs.
“Long Legs” finds the band rocking out a little bit more, not so much in a Sabbath way, but more of a British invasion sort of way. And when Romeo croons “I’ll be having too much fun,” you can’t help but believe him. The great majority of songs on this album are, simply put, fun. “Love Me Like You,” for instance, is a great power-pop song with just a little bit of Elephant Six in it. “Which Way to Happy,” despite being a slow, bluesy ballad, still manages to let the good time vibe linger.
Things get a little bit less cheery on the second side, beginning with “I See You, You See Me,” a song that owes more to The Velvet Underground than The Beach Boys or The Hollies. “Don’t Give Up the Fight” similarly combines a sad, heartbroken feel with the band’s irresistible harmonies. It’s clear that The Magic Numbers plan to sing their blues away, and we’re all the more fortunate because of that.
Heaps of hyperbole have been hurled upon this UK quartet, and not without warrant. The Magic Numbers are the stuff of music critics’ dreams. The only drawback to this album is that the second half falls too much on the side of quiet, sad ballads and, while there’s nothing wrong with that in itself, I was hoping for more of the hand-clappy, harmonized gems front-loaded on the record. Maybe it’s nitpicky, after all, their bummer tunes are still pretty darned good. Regardless, good things are in store for this band, and at least one of these songs is going to be a hit over here.
Beulah – The Coast is Never Clear
Beachwood Sparks – Beachwood Sparks
Marjorie Fair – Self Help Serenade
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.