Sunday, March 16, 2014

Album Review: Impersonator – Majical Cloudz

I first heard of Majical Cloudz’s ‘Impersonator’ when it showed up at #8 on Pitchfork’s Best Albums of 2013 list, and it became my favourite album to listen to over the New Year holidays and into the first days of 2014. I found it held my attention in a way that most records did not, and while I’ve struggled to express why, I think AllMusic has captured it when they say the songs exist in a ‘state of suspended animation’. Indeed, other reviewers seem to have had far more profound thoughts and been much better listeners of this album (particularly the lyrics) than I (the cokemachineglow review is especially insightful) that I wonder what I can add to them. So why say anything at all? Well, because I like the tunes, and wanted to point out on the internet that I like them …

Actually, another way of putting why I like the songs on this album is that they work for me in the same way that the songs of Joy Division and the Velvet Underground work. And while you might be wondering why someone is making yet another comparison of a band to Joy Division and the VU, particularly one that really doesn’t sound all that much like them, what I mean is that those are also records that are put together in a relatively simple way, and hook the listener in through having its own special atmosphere. In that sense, it seems more like a throwback to an earlier era than most modern, more complex-sounding (though not necessarily more complex) records, and may mean that it has a better chance of lasting than some more heralded releases.

Favourite tunes: the first three tracks of ‘Impersonator’, ‘This Is Magic’ and ‘Childhood’s End’ essentially set the tone of the record – direct, downbeat, and with a haunting beauty, particularly ‘Childhood’s End’, with its tale of a father shot down (bad listener that I am, I only realised this when a review pointed it out to me). My favourite two tracks come later in the album though. ‘Silver Rings’ has the largest sound of anything on the record, and is pretty much the only time singer Devon Welsh hits the really high notes, which might be why it suckers me in. It is like a version of every ‘80s power ballad heard on the radio driving home late at night done perfectly right. My other favourite is ‘Bugs Don’t Buzz’, which has a beautiful chord progression (F, Am, C, F apparently), and the most heartbreaking lyric on the album – ‘The cheesiest songs all end with a smile/This won’t end with a smile, my love’ – dooming the lovers in the song from the beginning, even though subsequent lines seem to try and backtrack on that sentiment. (It also has one of the weirdest lyrics – ‘We’ll be just like the roaches …’) Every track is listenable though, which is what all the strongest albums should be like.

P.S. Majical Cloudz were also the subject of one of my more circulated tweets – I pointed out that the ‘z’ in the name annoyed me, but strangely enough I didn’t mind the ‘j’.

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