Boston, Massachusetts based six-piece Magic Magic first emerged in early 2008 with their excellent self-titled debut album. Within a year it would find its way to the UK, being distributed by Rough Trade in January 2009 as part of their monthly Album Club, while also going on to earn praise in NME (8/10) and The Times (4/5). That spring, DJ Rob Da Bank had them in for a session on his BBC Radio 1 show, and much closer to home, the Boston Phoenix named them one of the 50 best new bands in America. A promising future seemed to lay ahead, but sadly no record deal was forthcoming and they all but dropped off the radar.
Despite this, Magic Magic continued to tour and release material over the next few years, with the playful and experimental compilation What Ever Happened to Monday Nights? in 2010, and a strong second full-length album, LP II, arriving in 2011. Part the way through assembling songs for another album they decided to take a break from being a band, with vocalist/guitarist John Murphy heading off to the Virgin Islands for a couple of years. Now, seemingly re-energising after their hiatus, Magic Magic are back with their first new release in five years.
Rather than being an album of newly recorded material, TV Life is effectively a clear-out of older material recorded over the past six years. Magic Magic’s sound is probably best described as being simultaneously unique, but also somewhat familiar. Rooted in reverb-heavy indie rock, their style also contains strong elements of dream pop with touches of noise, psych and also some lounge music thrown in there. It’s creative, clever, charismatic, superbly arranged and very well self-produced. Their current bassist Brad Krieger is the head engineer at Hanging Horse Studio, which the band helped put together over the past few years.
Being made up of older material, TV Life doesn’t stray too far from their previous work, with the overall sound being perhaps closer to that heard on their 2010 compilation What Ever Happened to Monday Nights?. However, the quality of material here is much better, managing to showcase their playful side while also sounding more focussed. Highlights include the dreamy noise rock of “Closed on Sunday”, the partly dub-inspired instrumental “The Law”, and the thoroughly enjoyable “Wishing Well” with its fantastic guitar interplay.
TV Life is a reminder to the world that Magic Magic are back and that they’re still capable of producing great music. Now that they’ve cleared the decks of old material they can focus on putting together a new record, some of which they’ve been testing out during their January residency at Great Scott in Allston, Boston. With an album release planned for later in the year, maybe this time they’ll finally get the attention their music deserves. As Gavin Haynes said in NME when reviewing their debut back in 2009: “Don’t believe the lack of hype”.
Released: 15 January 2016
Producer: Magic Magic
Rating: Solid 7