This review’s a tad overdue, given that Magic Wands’ album Jupiter was released back in 2016, but we’re operating on another timeline here I guess. I’ve previously written about this band a couple times, most recently here. I wrote:
I first discovered Magic Wands at SXSW in 2010 when they played at The Ghost Room (at least that’s where the old schedule says they played, I can’t remember to be honest.) I never forgot the band though. When I got home I looked them up on Myspace when that was still kind of a thing at least for music.
When I was younger, it was always my dream to be in a two person “boy/girl” band. I was never able to find the right girl to partner up with though. The ones who seemed like good prospects (Dawn Aquarius, etc) all either lived too far, and/or were already partnered up. The long distance dream became real for Magic Wands though. They represent everything about why I loved these types of groups, right down to the name. “Magic Wands,” indeed.
Well, I loved their track, Black Magic. It is always stuck in my head, and I think it’s one of the best songs of the last ten years. So that left Jupiter with a high standard to live up to. So often with indie bands, the new material just doesn’t quite manage to conjure up the same level of magic as the earlier releases (a good example would be The White Stripes.) I’m happy to say though, that in the case of Magic Wands, Jupiter is awesome and doesn’t feel like a sell out or departure from their earlier sound. It is every bit as good, and clocking in at over 50 minutes…is nothing short of an epic masterpiece.
Like other contemporary indie bands, Magic Wands tends to blend different styles, an almost inevitable consequence of growing up at a time where one is exposed to so many conscious and subconscious musical influences. Their sound could be described as an alchemic combination of late 60’s psychedelia and avant garde 80’s synthpop. The reverb drenched title track, Jupiter, really does echo all the through to the underground oceans of icy Europa. It serves as a nice, spacey, cryonic intro for the next track Love Soldier, which absolutely rocks. Yes, the Roman Gods would be pleased with this peppy paced, heroic jam. It’s extremely danceable and could make it on the club circuit, even though the kind of people that typically go to clubs probably don’t deserve something this authentic. I can say this because for decades I was one of them. The amusingly titled “Lazerbitch” sounds like something straight out of The Legend of Billie Jean. I can almost picture Helen Slater mouthing the chorus, “I’m a Lazerbitch.” I should mention also that these are not particularly short songs. Several of them run 5 minutes plus, keeping true to the genre.
Just when you think they’ve probably led with their best foot forward (most bands are told to put their best songs first to hook in the listener,) used up their pixie dust and shot their wad, you soon find that the songs just keep getting better. Chariot is another fast paced song, which retains its dreamy ambiance while taking you on a wild, far out ride, like Charlton Heston in Ben Hur if his chariot had been retrofitted for space travel.
My favorite track on the album is Dream Street. It’s just so much more dynamic than the other songs and really allows Dexy Valentine to showcase the impressive range of her vocal capabilities. She reminds me of a hipster sorceress version of Blondie. It’s as if Blondie took one of Alice’s pills in Jefferson Airplane’s White Rabbit, but instead of growing larger or smaller, she just sang about weirder, more imaginative stuff….which is interesting considering one of Blondie’s greatest hits was literally titled, Dreaming. Magic Wands actually transports you to a dreamlike state, rather than merely touting the act of dreaming.
Blue Wall is one of the more mellow songs on the album. It’s relatively slow paced and gives you a chance to chill after an action packed half hour. It’s followed by another lively track, I’ll Never Go There Again, which I don’t have much to say about, as much of what I mentioned earlier regarding Love Soldier would also be applicable here.
The album closes with an ambient, instrumental outro, Jupiter II. It’s beautiful. You feel like you’re right out there in Jupiter’s orbit. You’ve opened the pod bay door, deactivated HAL 9000, the whole shebang… and you’re quietly staring into the monolith. What do you see? It’s full of stars? Your future self on your deathbed? Or do you observe the image of the God of Jupiter himself, hurling a mini thunderbolt toward you with an intent not to kill or punish, but to electrify and spark your imagination and creativity ever further, as a token of reward for making it to this level.
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