Album Review: Magic Man – Before the Waves

Written by on July 4, 2014

From two childhood best friends recording a lofi self-released album via GarageBand to being a full-fledged “triumphant synth rock band” signed to Neon Gold Records & Columbia, Magic Man has come a long way since 2010. Originally consisting of Alex Caplow (vocals) and Sam Lee (guitar), Magic Man now includes Justine Bowe (synth/keys), Joey Sulkowski (drums), and Gabe Goodman (bass). In September of 2013, the 5 Bostonians released their You Are Here EP. Since then, they’ve toured with Walk the Moon, Sir Sly, and New Politics, released a music video for their single, “Paris,” performed at SXSW and several other major music festivals, and announced a 2014 summer tour with Walk the Moon & Panic! At the Disco.

Any fan of synth pop or anyone, in general, that has been on the watch for up-and-coming bands over the last year or so, knows that Magic Man’s 2014 release has been highly anticipated. To be released on July 8th, “Before the Waves” contains 12 tracks (and even possibly a bonus track of a remastered version of “South Dakota” off of their 2010 Real Life Color” album, as Caplow has hinted at in a previous KPSU phone interview ).

“You are about to embark on the most wonderful experience of your life. I will not explain at this moment how or why it works. I don’t have the time. Just dance.” – Texas

Before the Waves opens with Texas, a track that perfectly sets the tone for the rest of the album. The first few lines of Texas, which is sampled from an old wellness record, sum up the entire album quite accurately. This album is 47 minutes of nonstop feet tappin’, hip swingin’, sing-a-long JAMZ. Yes, that’s right. Jamz with a z.

Following “Texas” is a personal favorite of mine, “Apollo.” I first saw Magic Man live in September of 2013 opening at the 9:30 Club in Washington DC. I was very skeptical about this band before their performance, but as soon as they played “Apollo,” I knew this band was going places. It’s always been my favorite song to see performed live. Although I enjoy the studio version of this song and its 80s synth/keys, infectious beats, and Caplow’s dreamy vocals, the studio version just doesn’t come close to capturing the energy, excitement, and effort that the band puts into a live performance, which is not necessarily a “bad” thing at all, especially if you’re a fan of seeing bands blow your mind in person. Other notable tracks on this album include “Paris,” “Catherine,” “Every Day,” “Waves,” “Out of Mind,” and “It All Starts Here.” The last track, “It All Starts Here” complements the opening track and the album as a whole by ending with an old vinyl sound. Moreover, “It All Starts Here” alludes to the beginning of a new chapter, possibly in terms of their career.

So was this album worth the hype? Before I say anything more, I just wanted to say that I love this band so much. Everyone knows it. I’ve seen them three times within the last nine months and I will have seen them a fourth time at Madison Square Garden this August, but I’m going to be honest. I think this album had a decent amount of consistent songs on it. I, however, felt that the songs on the album were “hit or miss.” I either really liked them or I was indifferent. Additionally, a majority of the consistent songs were already on their You Are Here EP such as Paris, Texas, Every Day, and Waves. The only song from that EP left off the full-length album was “Nova Scotia,” which I thought would have been a better choice than “Chicagoland” or “Honey.” Despite this, I still believe Magic Man has a lot of potential and is a must-see band live. I honestly cannot stress how fantastic and charming they are on stage.

For any Portlanders interested in this band, they will be playing their first headlining show in Portland’s Mississippi Studios on July 14th. Also, KPSU will also be interviewing Magic Man again that afternoon. Watch out for that in a few weeks!

Album Rating: 6.5/10

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