Here We Go Magic’s 2009 self-titled debut is an album marked by two distinct, disparate parts: pretty, melodic folk tunes that gain momentum as they go along and, tucked between those songs, vignettes brought to life with droning ambient electronic textures, white noise, and repetitve sound loops. There was enough of both styles on that album to raise a legitimate question as to which direction the members of Here We Go Magic would take their sound.
On Pigeons, Luke Temple and company have turned a neat trick. The band members have definitely entrenched themselves in the fully-formed-songs category, and yet they’ve created another album of two parts, with side B existing as the weird cousin to side A.
“Hibernation” starts Pigeons off with a sunny groove reminiscent of Stereolab’s music at its most playful, bouncing along as Temple intones about the “weary sun.” This is followed by “Collector,” the album’s clear standout. Like the band’s best tracks (“Tunnelvision” comes to mind), “Collector” gains energy as it goes, picking up fragments of voices, bright keyboards and propulsive percussion, until the band is locked in a get-up-and-go groove. Two songs in and we alrady have a candidate for Best Driving Album Of The Year.
Temple mostly keeps his vocals in the upper register. He manages to sound like Ezra Koenig, Joe Walsh and even Chad VanGaalen, sometimes adapting multiple singing personalities on the same song. The vocals on Pigeons match the music well — echo-y guitar lines, crisp percussion, bright synth lines. The last two and a half minutes of “Surprise,” a vocal-less coda of sorts, is Here We Go Magic at its atmospheric best.
Starting with “Moon” and running right through to the end of the album (with the possible exception of “Land of Feeling”), things get decidedly weirder. This is not to say that all the elements of Here We Go Magic songs are not there, but the songwriting becomes looser, more ethereal, more impressionistic. The looping, gossamer vocals and propulsive drums of “Moon” call to mind mid-2000s Animal Collective. “F.F.A.P.” slows things down. It features a strange and loping but beautiful melody, all soft echoes until, like on many songs on Pigeons, Here We Go Magic turns up the volume and piles on layer after sonic layer. “Vegetable or Native” owes a debt to Chad VanGaalen’s off-kilter songwriting. “Herbie I Love You, Now I Know” is all gauzy electronic texture and clicking percussion, miles away from the snappy songwriting of “Collectors.”
The stylistic shift on Pigeons is in no way a bad thing. The album’s best moments — the ends of “Surprise” and “F.F.A.P.,” “Collector,” the strong percussion throughout — are scattered all over the album. It’s a good mix of electronics, modern indie rock, classic-rock vocal harmonies, and the strange. Even in a crowded field this summer, chockfull of musical juggernaunts releasing albums, Pigeons will likely catch people’s attention. And those people will be glad it did.