A helpful banner on Here We Go Magic’s MySpace page tells us the band is 'for fans of Yeasayer, Animal Collective and Grizzly Bear.' And although yeah, there’s a modicum of Animal Collective’s joyful electronic shimmer, Grizzly Bear’s wistful romance and Odd Blood's sometimes unorthodox pop sensibilities to be found in the hazy folds of Pigeons, really, it’s not that apt a series of comparisons. The decision to use the most visible players in leftfield pop as a reference point will no doubt do HWGM no end of favours by bringing them to the attention of a multitude of audiences, but it’s worth pointing out from the get go that far from being derivative, they’re peddling a tune completely of their own.
If we rewind back to New York artist/singer/songwriter/ multi-instrumentalist Luke Temple’s first musical incursions by way of his self-titled Snowbeast and Hold a Match for a Gasoline World folk albums, the foundations of his future band are audible, scattered amongst his breathy, Paul Simon-esque falsetto and soft, lilting instrumentation. In a recent DiS interview, the frontman revealed the story behind recording HWGM’s self-titled debut effort, playing nearly every instrument himself while holed up in his apartment block bedroom – hence its muffled don’t-disturb-the-neighbours-feel. Here We Go Magic sounded like it had been made behind cotton wool, like walking through mist, or in a dream. Pigeons retains the same whirling carousel of colour and blurred, whimsical synths, but now the production is clearer, the vocal loops and layering that Temple constantly employs more vibrant. And although HWGM was initially a solo project instigated to fuck around with some more idiosyncratic ideas, its recent expansion to a five piece suggests it’s become rather more.
It’s this addition of members to the band’s dynamic that’s responsible for the major shift between album number one and two. Of course four extra bodies in the room was always going to make for an augmentation in sound, and although Temple remains principal songwriter, Pigeons is unquestionably the result of extra brains and ideas bouncing off the walls at any given time with much fuller, impressive consequences.
Opener ‘Hibernation’s’ jittering organ funk takes its nods from Talking Heads’ ‘Once In A Lifetime’ before a rapid upward rise that hints at something rather more chaotic. However, amid Temple’s murmurs of “In the weary daylight, I do as I am told”, this promise is reined in before it can blossom entirely, instead segueing into ‘Collector’, Pigeons’ crowning jewel. With an almost childlike rush of joy, it bounces through blue, cloud-fluffed skies, propelling the album forward and bursting at the seams with uncontained elation. It’s the best thing on here by miles and represents a massive jump in both songwriting and musicianship. In fact it's so impossible to dislike that it inadvertently casts a shadow over following tracks ‘Casual’ and ‘Surprise’- downers by comparison but good in their own right: the first a geekish drawl, while the latter prowls almost dangerously through dark, hazy stabs of synth and ringing guitar.
Descriptions of the album as a tale of two halves are explicable in that up until the lovely, gently strummed ‘Bottom Feeder’ we’re dealing with tracks that have some sort of wholly realised structure and focus. And after that, with the exception of ‘Old World United’, channelling Lime Headed Dog through its higgledy piggledy lets-hit-all-the-keys-at-the-same-time-and-see-what-comes-out madcap organ, the remaining material lacks the same impact. Many hands don’t always make light work.
‘Moon’ is so meandering and directionless it’s a wonder it even managed to find its way here, while ‘Vegetable Or Native’ sounds like three songs at once... unfortunately none of them seem to be going anywhere. If ‘Collector’ is like a dream you’d want to carry the memory of around all day; this would be a dream you wouldn’t remember in the morning. Similarly ‘Herbie, I Love You, Now I Know’ is little more than two and half minutes of pleasant but unessential haze suggesting that at times there’s too many cooks spoiling the broth, too many ideas jostling for space and some of them still evolving. But still, the front-heavy momentum of Pigeons is enough to ensure that that the dreamy beauty of Here We Go Magic’s debut has been fiercely preserved.
7Dannii Leivers 's Score