What’s That About is a brand new album from Magazine Gap, a London-based alternative pop band we’ve featured several times over the last couple of years. The album is scheduled for an official release in early June, but I was fortunate enough to get a preview of it. No real huge surprises here. Being familiar with this outfit, I fully expected this release to be polished and professional, and indeed it does deliver. However, I have to admit that it is even a little bit better than I expected.
The lead single Possibilities has a clean, groovin’ and almost jazzy feel to it. It’s an exceptionally pure recording. The open-ended sense of uplifting optimism also serves as a great introduction to the rest of the album. One element that has always stood out to me about this band is the stellar vocals. On this track, the singer’s voice reminds me a lot of the late Arthur Lee’s. I mean this both in terms of the actual sound of his voice, as well as the cadence and application of timed pauses. Go back and listen to something like Your Mind And We Belong Together, and you might pick up on this comparison (or not). The instrumental musicians play their part as well. The backing music is symphonically precise and crisp, while still managing to show off a little style. There are no weak links in this chain or talent imbalances.
The band states that they “don’t believe in throwaway tracks,” so on an album where we are treated to 12 full songs, we can assume they are each given the same meticulous attention to detail. I certainly didn’t detect any breaks in quality, but we do get some stylistic variation. Kings, Queens & Jokers for example, has more of a folk-rock vibe. Admittedly, I’m not much of an accent connoisseur, listening to this track I would never have guessed that this band is from London, as the sound occasionally comes close to resembling that “Roots Americana” or some adjacent subgenre. I believe I’ve mentioned something along these lines in previous reviews, but this isn’t like Thompson Twins, where you can immediately tell where they’re from.
At it’s core though, this is an alternative, adult contemporary/pop album. It’s very positive and mainstream friendly, free from much of the cynicism and angst that’s so often associated with the “alternative” label. The mood ranges from ecstatic euphoria to tender sentimentalism. There’s a touch of sadness here and there, as the album offers up a well-rounded range of emotions. My favorite track on this album is probably Dancing In Quicksand, which features those crowdpleasing call outs (a la Huey Lewis’ Heart of Rock’n’Roll) of various cities that listeners love in songs. It’s just catchy and “feels” like a hit. There’s also a lot to be said for the opening track, which is so powerful it can probably make your brain release endorphins. The video also features an inspiring dance audition sequence. Great stuff here as usual.
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