When Luke Temple first started to work on this new project he called Here We Go Magic, it was just him alone in a recording studio, writing and crafting the songs which eventually came together to form last year’s self-titled debut. The sound, given that Temple was by himself with only a looping pedal for a friend, was decidedly lo-fi and very folk-pop with a world beat/noise pop edge to it. Don’t you dare call that a bad thing, because when it results in songs as good as “Fangela” and “Tunnelvision”, you come to acknowledge Temple as the smart songwriter that he truly is. Well, in order to take these songs on tour and perform them with any sort of reasonable accuracy, Temple brought four of his friends on board, and they’ve stuck around to the point where they’re now full-fledged members of the band and contributing their collective skills towards a new Here We Go Magic album. That new album is titled “Pigeons” and it’s available for you to pick up starting this week.
Despite signing to Secretly Canadian and most likely having a bigger recording budget, the first noticeable thing about “Pigeons” is how well it maintains the cheaper, lo-fi vibe the debut had. None of these songs are too smooth or overproduced, and given the style they’re working in, that’s a good thing. It’d be untrue to the established spirit and vibe of the songs to make them come through with crystal clarity. But considering that Here We Go Magic is now a five-piece band, there is a marked increase in the overall fullness of sound, along with a stylistic shift to accomodate for that. With its odd combination of drum machine, dominating bass and messy keyboards, “Hibernation” is something of an odd choice as the opening track, but it works in the weirdest and best way possible. Where this beefed up version of the band really gets going though is on first single “Collector”, which a beautifully composed piece of guitar pop that’s light as air and has the great potential to stick in your head for days on end. “Casual”‘s use of synths and acoustic guitar makes for surprisingly effective balladry, primarily invoking the very relaxed vibe of its title. With its decidedly psychedelic vibe replete with a small backing choir, portions of “Surprise” are working from the book of Pink Floyd, and there’s a lot the song gets right. It does feel like there’s something just barely missing, but the song is still about as effective as it needs to be. “Bottom Feeder” attempts to move in an alt-country direction, and Temple’s vocals anchor it down as he attempts his best Neil Young. The thing about it is that for an album that’s been highly interesting up until that point, this straightforward, Plain Jane track has the variety but not creativity this record needs. By looping a guitar and bass line and singing over it, “Moon” returns to the psychedelia established two tracks earlier, and makes you wonder exactly why it wasn’t sandwiched next to “Surprise” rather than separated by the clunky and unimportant “Bottom Feeder”. Other than that, the bouncy “Old World United” boasts some strong keyboard work, and “F.F.A.P.” proves that Temple can give an emotionally arresting vocal performance in the quiet spaces between the prog-riddled guitars. For the freak folk inside all of us, the record’s last two tracks “Vegetable or Native” and “Herbie I Love You, Now I Know” are both very percussion-heavy and make use of plenty of non-drum instruments to keep the beat. It seems a little odd to end your album on an instrumental after everything else has had lyrics, but given how well the last couple songs blend with one another, you could just regard “Herbie…” as an extension of the track before it.
Perhaps surprisingly, “Pigeons” feels less like a step forwards for Here We Go Magic and more like a re-evaluation of what was already there. There is certainly a constant between the self-titled debut and the new album with the psychedelic pop bent, but given the much fuller and occasionally richer sound that the additional members now bring to the fold, it sounds almost like the work of an entirely different band. It’s enough to make you wonder how the performance of a sparse old song like “Fangela” has changed now that there are more people to play around with it. The best decision you can probably make is to view “Pigeons” as the start of something brand new for Here We Go Magic. Whereas they were once a caterpillar, they’ve now evolved into a butterfly. Considering this could be the album – and “Collector” could be the song – that catapults this band into indie stardom, such a metaphor is that much more apt. Viewing “Pigeons” completely on its own and without any history involved, it is a generally solid and exciting record. There are a couple small missteps, adding some flaws to an otherwise pristine shine, but the majority of the album works like gangbusters. Pick up a copy if it sounds like your sort of thing.