Magic Omnibus | July 2015

Flo Morrissey_75It’s an unjaded sense of freedom coupled with the right amount of naturalism and drama injected into her music that gives Flo Morrissey balance.




Ahoy interwebs! It’s been a hectic month in my corner of the multiverse, bursting with bureaucratic bustle and punching the clock, making the e-donuts for the man. Surely we’ve all been there. Hopefully you’re not right there right now. So please be forgiving of this limited service night omnibus.

wilco 75Wilco | Star Wars (dBpm)

What’s better than a new Wilco album? A new, free Wilco album! What’s better than a new, free Wilco album? A new, free, surprise Wilco album! Say hello to the whimsically named Star Wars (I’ve been having fun envisioning the intra-band discussions that must have led to the combination of album title and feline cover art. “You been on the internet lately, Jeff? It’s all cat GIFs and Jedis. Say…that gives me an idea!” I’ve also been having a good time conjuring a theoretical, highly uncomfortable permission-seeking meeting between Jeff Tweedy and George Lucas). With this, their own little surprise rebel attack on the music industry’s lunar shield generators, Wilco sounds like they’re having more fun than they’ve had in years, melding Krautrock and anything-goes White Album-era Beatles and crafting a taut set of songs that are both immediate, askew, lighthearted, and serious.

cheerleader 75Cheerleader | The Sunshine of Your Youth (Bright Antenna)

The debut LP from Philly group Cheerleader is a postcard from the place where dream-pop meets power-pop. I like to imagine it as a small club with lots of writing on the walls that sits on a gorgeous bend on Highway 1 going up the California coast, way up past San Francisco. The Sunshine of Your Youth is shiny, but not soulless or mechanically over-processed (thanks to a simpatico production from Mark Needham, who has helped bands like Bloc Party and the Killers achieve a similarly big, clean sound while still maintaining a semblance of nuance and heart). Cheerleader is a highly melodic, instantly attractive, ebullient-but-not-obnoxious band, delivering a sonic rah-rah that’s quite apt given their moniker. “Do What You Want” couples the propulsive, artsy indie-pop of Ra Ra Riot with the off-kilter yet highly accessible dance-pop of Foster the People, replacing piano with a Guster-style acoustic guitar, and even managing to make a bit of whistling in the intro sound cool. “Perfect Vision” bounces along with a confident, electro stomp reminiscent of the Naked and Famous. “Haunted Love” sounds like an indie jangle that wouldn’t be out of place in a Pains of Being Pure at Heart song bursting through a dissipating marine fog. And both the title track and “The Quiet Life” are optimistic and subtle, but movingly anthem-like without being overblown.

Flo Morrissey_75Flo Morrissey | Tomorrow Will Be Beautiful (Glassnote)

Flo Morrissey (I hereby dub thee “FloMoz”!) brings to mind First Aid Kit, although with the country-rock swapped out for pastoral English folk. Tomorrow Will Be Beautiful is painfully earnest, but in the very best way possible. This is the sort of music that would be unbearable if it wasn’t so obviously fully sincere and unaffected. Morrissey’s measured—but not pretentious—approach sounds almost exactly like the golden-hued neo-hippie portrait on the cover looks. This lack of artifice is on full, flowery display on the swooning standout track “Pages of Gold,” channeling Nick Drake writing songs for Kate Bush in a high-summer English field. “Sleeplessly Dreaming” captures 1966 guitar tones, that sort of million-miles-away, smile-on-lips, lost-in-thought mental meandering you get from pondering potential partners and your possible futures. Take note of the dramatically sweeping orchestration in “Betrayed”—Morrissey’s voice rides it, rising and falling like an eagle aloft in a breezy fall sky. It’s an unjaded sense of freedom coupled with knowing just the right amount of naturalism and drama to inject into her music that gives Morrissey balance. She radiates a youthful vigor sans annoying naiveté, which makes her music compelling and elevates her beyond what could be merely sheltered and twee.

smallpools-killer-whales 75Smallpools | “Killer Whales” (RCA)

This has become my go-to summer dusk song. It boasts an unabashedly big, studio-lustrous sound, bred in captivity for maximum impact to complement the humid, golden rays that linger in the late evenings of July and August. Think Van Halen’s “Jump” but with the guitar pyrotechnics swapped out for a double helping of those big, fat, glorious synth chords. Lyrically, it’s populist, but not stupid, which helps form the crux of why this is such an irresistible song. One simple line continues to slay me: “She was a concept / I was in love then.” Isn’t that a simply wistfully romantic and shockingly obvious sentiment? If your life doesn’t have room for “songs of the summer” like this in it, I highly recommend re-examining it, and finding a radio, a patio, a cold beer and a warm buddy. | Mike Rengel

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