Friday, August 20, 2010

Album review - The Magic Numbers 'The Runaway'

The Magic Numbers
‘The Runaway’
(Heavenly Recordings)
THIS THIRD album from double-sibling quartet The Magic Numbers is a perplexing affair. Not in terms of the music on offer - it does not mine difficult artistry and complexity - rather it seems to show a quartet who do not want to be the band they have often been pigeonholed as. Often seen as something of a happy clappy harmony band, a la the Mamas and Papas, as a result of their more successful singles from first two albums, in reality both albums were driven by their own share of heartache, a tinge of unease and unhappiness prevalent on each.
It is no different here, on what is a moody, downscaled and often lo-fi affair that opens bursting with strings, but soon quietens almost to a crawl - too quiet by half for our tastes.
Produced by frontman Romeo Stodart and Valgeir Sigurdsson - who has worked with oddballs Bjork and Bonnie Prince Billy - the standout feature of this beguiling album is the weight of the strings present on it, arranged, before he passed away, by Robert Kirby, renowned for his work with the likes of Nick Drake, Sandy Denny and Elvis Costello.
As such, the swooning violins on the Beach House influenced opener ‘The Pulse’ are an impressive start to the record; as is the orchestral swing of Hurt So Good.
Stodart has said the band wanted to avoid the album being driven purely by guitars, instead replacing them with orchestration, and to a certain extent this is case, outside of by-the-numbers tracks such as A Start With No Ending and the ever so slightly Air-esque beat of Once I Had, but as a result the album is a bit samey, a bit maudlin, and a bit, well, bland.
The funky beat of of Why Did You Call is a stand-out, as is the Fleetwood Mac meets Broken Social Scene mash-up of Throwing My Heart Away, but there is not enough here to incite and excite, as the Magic Numbers eponymous 2005 debut did.
A shame, because the band are clearly bursting with talent. Maybe if they embraced their strengths and cheered up a bit, they might hit the perfect note.
Rating: 3/5

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