I’ve thrown a curve ball or two since starting this blog of bands out of the element of what I’d usually talk about (just look at the pop rock section of my site). That’s the glory of having my own blog though, I can write about whomever as long as I know what I’m talking about. In the case of this review it’s Toronto reggae pop rock band Magic!. It was last winter when I was an intern at Sony Music that I first heard of them, just mere weeks before I started hearing their hit Rude all over the radio (on Top 40 stations, those stations that play the same friggin crap music that people somehow like) that I attended a showcase, a small private show for Sony to show off this then practically completely unknown band to DJs, Press, Ticketmaster, etc. Needless to say as a 23 year old intern I was thrilled for the invite from my supervisors.
I sat (with Toronto reporter Rudy Blair, before I even knew what a big deal it was to be sitting and talking with him) and watched the band play four songs. I’ll never forget how impressed I was. I was expecting a pop band looking to be the next Maroon 5 but instead I heard something more original than expected, I didn’t even know at the time that the band wanted to take on a reggae fuelled rock sound, like The Police, as the band mentioned during the set.
After the performance I had the (mostly) privilege of meeting the band; Lead singer Nasri Atweh is a grammy award winning producer (not that a grammy means that much to me) and also a successful songwriter for much of the lamestream artists we hear poisoning the radio, so he is kind of a big deal in the music industry, and when he found out I was just an intern, he just shook my hand and went on to someone more important, which kind of jaded me to not want to talk to anyone else. Then bassist Ben Spivak (who I accidentally called “Brad”) and I had a few nice words, so then I decided to tell Mark Pellizzer (who I accidentally called “Mike,” I was on a roll) how surprised I was at his guitar playing, which I’ll talk more about later, and it was then that drummer Alex Tanas (whose name I got right!) walked up and started talking, he even encouraged me to come the other two nights (the showcase went on for 3 nights) but I couldn’t. I did however leave there with the knowledge that these were not only really good musicians, but for the most part in what I saw they were good people.
ANYWAY fast forward to the beginning of this month when Magic! finally released their full length album Don’t Kill The Magic. Needless to say I bought it. Even if it was bad I still wanted to give the band a few cents toward their royalties. Luckily my hunch from their showcase proved to be right and it was a worthy purchase. With no surprise the album starts off with Rude. If you haven’t heard the song by now, it’s a very poppy reggae song that can pass as a rock song on some levels. Frankly I found it catchy, catchy in a way I wouldn’t have admitted to people before the full album came out. Second track (and perhaps my favourite) No Evil takes on a bit of a darker sound for the verses, but the pre-chorus and chorus are back to the pop reggae sound. The song shows spurts of the bands rock capabilities; particularly Alex’s drumming carries that aspect of the song well.
The one song, aside from Rude, that I’ll never forget hearing the band play at the showcase is the softer song, borderline ballad Let Your Hair Down. This song impressed so many people that when the people at Sony talked about the performance a couple of days after, it was this song that I kept hearing brought up. There are some good guitar solos on the album, but this is the song with the most standout guitar solo. During their performance, I wasn’t more amazed at any point during the four songs then when I saw Mark perform this guitar solo. I just didn’t expect it at all from a modern pop rock band. The other softer song heard later on the album, One Woman One Man is undeniably a ballad. Any good album needs a love song and I don’t think Magic! wasted a spot on the album to include this song. It’s well written and catchy, definitely emotional when it needs to be and I don’t think Don’t Kill The Magic would be the same without either of these two songs.
The album starts to rock harder with songs like the fast paced songs Stupid Me and Little Girl Big World, both songs are really guitar driven, especially the latter, and I can’t emphasize that enough. With the exception of Let Your Hair Down, Mark’s guitar playing doesn’t steal the spotlight the way it does in this song. As for Stupid Me, it reminds me at points of modern pop songs which sort of leaves me uncomfortable, but then I realize that it rocks in a way modern songs don’t normally rock and then I forget all about the discomfort.
Songs like No Way No and Paradise emphasize the pop aspect of the bands pop rock sound. Both songs remind me of something that may have been released in the 90s by a band like Sugar Ray. It’s Don’t Kill The Magic’s title track that is unforgivably poppy, to an annoying mainstream level. You may have heard it, I don’t know if it’s on the radio outside of Canada, but there is little about this song that makes it a credible rock song. The guitars are apparent and all, but the drum beat is that of a pop song, and the over usage of keyboards makes me worry about the bands intentions of future releases. The song doesn’t even really have the reggae sound, and it’s the reggae sound that gives them identity over other artists.
The album ends with How Do You Want To Be Remembered, a fairly neutral song in respect to how the album has sounded throughout. It’s a slow song, but not quite so poppy, it brings back a strong reggae influence it leaves listeners soothed. I don’t mind the bands choice to end Don’t Kill The Magic with this song.
As I told the band when I met Magic!, I agree that they have a sound like The Police just without the progressive aspects that The Police had in the 70’s/80’s. I am surprised with how much I enjoy this album. A friend of mine would insist that I’m totally biased in wanting to like it, which is completely false. There is no reason why I would want to like a band with songs that play on the same radio station that plays Katy Perry and etc. I just hope that the band continues down a pop rock path, maybe incorporating a bit more rock in their future releases. I feel if they go down a more pop route then they will fall in to obscurity. They need to keep their reggae sound because that’s what differentiates them from the pack.
“Stupid Me” – It’s one of the songs on the album that rocks, in a pop reggae way but regardless its fast pace can keep the attention of listeners and it can appeal to both fans of lamestream music and rock fans that don’t mind a little pop in their rock. This song achieves that better than any other song off of Don’t Kill The Magic.
8 (Out of 10)
|“Let Your Hair Down”||4:25|
|“No Way No”||3:51|
|“Don’t Kill the Magic”||3:37|
|“One Woman One Man”||3:59|
|“Little Girl Big World”||3:23|
|“Mama Didn’t Raise No Fool”||4:07|
|“How Do You Want to Be Remembered”||4:03|