Hearts. Love. Magic. Space. Crystals. Stars. The ongoing trickle of chillwave has managed to turn a lot of people off in the last couple years, and not entirely because the songs tagged as such are displeasing to listen to. In fact, for the most part, the tunes, often featuring fuzzy synth melodies and dreamy guitars, are perfectly agreeable. One of the main hitches, however, seems to stem from the truckload of tired motifs that artists unload on the listener with each release. The tracklisting alone on Magic Wands’ debut full-length, Aloha Moon, is a grab bag of groan-worthy teenage pop clichés. Yes, it does feel superficial to bemoan song titles, but with a record that only spans 35 minutes, these artistic blemishes noticeably detract from the overall force of the album. The upside is that there are many pleasant moments throughout Aloha Moon and those easily swayed by laid-back pop should find a few songs worthy of a poolside playlist or summer mix.
Chris and Dexy Valentine comprise Magic Wands, and the couple met in 2007, tossing around band concepts via a long distance relationship before moving to Nashville to start recording songs. Aloha Moon is a record that’s been stewing for quite some time, and of the disc’s 10 tracks, five of them appeared on 2009’s Magic Love & Dreams EP. The three year gap between the EP and LP raises some red flags about the group’s work ethic (on Magic Wands’ Last.fm page you can find fans crying for an album as far back as May 2010) but doesn’t detract from the album’s overall cohesiveness–most of the songs mesh pretty well together. “Aloha Moon” and “Crystals” are two tracks that didn’t appear on the 2009 EP but still brim with a warmth supported by Dexy Valentine’s coy vocals.
“Black Magic” (which did appear on the 2009 EP) boasts an enjoyable chorus and catchy guitar riffs but unfortunately doesn’t withstand the test of multiple replays due to the aforementioned subject matter issues. This gripe is a fairly consistent problem throughout the album, and ultimately relegates the release to a mere guilty pleasure, rather than anything warranting repeat listens. If the duo hopes to cast a spell that sticks with their sophomore LP, they’ll have to eschew the bromidic gimmicks and define a more interesting and original artistic identity.
Stream: Magic Wands – “Space”