Here We Go Magic have certainly progressed throughout their brief but pretty damn impressive career. Initially a solo project, the band has expanded to exactly that – a band, and has their sound has progressed and swelled accordingly. They no longer sound like a solo project, all hazy loops and electronic flourishes, but a fully fledged indie rock band, one that has toured with American indie rock titans like Grizzly Bear and The Walkmen.
Although to many a progression from lo-fi and abstract to solid and powerful is a natural, pleasing one, personally, listening to A Different Ship had me longing for the Here We Go Magic of old. That is not to say that A Different Ship is a bad album at all. Charming single ‘How Do I Know’ is a driving, irresistible pop song with splashes of perfectly ear-pleasing melodies and handclaps, the gorgeous, piano driven ‘Miracle Of Mary’ is one of the prettiest things the band has ever recorded, and the cacophonous percussion of ‘Intro’ is pretty damn exciting. It’s just that maybe some flaws, or some subversive touches wouldn’t go a miss; those are often the things that give albums their character.
One of the most notable things about A Different Ship is just how lovely everything is. Beautiful washes of synth, gentle and unobtrusive drums, sunny guitar strums and pretty, harmonious vocals. Occasionally I found myself longing for the album to take a twist and surprise me with something a little more nasty, but it’s more or less all beautiful. I hesitate to criticise an album for being too lovely, but rather like when a girl dumps a guy for being ‘too nice’, I have to say I longed for a little bite.
However to focus on how overly ‘nice’ the whole thing is would do the album a disservice; it really is stunningly pretty. Much of the album has the sun-kissed feels of bands like The Shins or even The Thrills (where the hell did they go?), but with some much needed electronic elements and interesting production techniques. Occasionally A Different Ship veers into full on electronics, most notably on ‘I Believe In Action’, which sounds a little like Fleet Foxes discovered laptop pop. In fact, throughout the album the washy, Fleet Foxes-esque vocal harmonies, although absolutely stunning, make the lyrics a little hard to make out.
The album closing title track definitely stand out as one of the record’s more adventurous, and therefore engaging moments. at 8 minutes long, it morphs from driving, percussive and energetic to swirling, noisy freakout, before drifting away with distant vocals and ambient washes of sound. It’s certainly the most surprising moment here and it’s unsettled style is more like the Here We Go Magic of old.
A Different Ship is definitely a rewarding, enjoyable album, and their is plenty to love in it’s hooky pop songs. However, there are other, lesser known albums in recent memory (Andrew Bird’s Break It Yourself springs to mind) that do the things A Different Ship does, but a little better. However, if we do get some sun this summer, you would be hard pressed to find a more suitable album.
Released on 7th May 2012 by Secretly Canadian