Here We Go Magic made waves in early 2009 with an eponymous debut that was the one-man home recording project of indie folker Luke Temple; a curious, sonically hazy album essentially divided between sketchy ambient noise instrumentals and simple, tuneful, loosely tribal-feeling folk-pop nuggets. A little more than a year later, HWGM is now a full-fledged five-piece band with extensive touring behind them and a deal with big-league indie Secretly Canadian, but while their follow-up effort, Pigeons, varies from its predecessor in plenty of ways, the band's musical approach remains puzzlingly, if not unpleasantly, undefined. The most substantial through-line from the first album is one of sound, which remains dirty, dreamy, psychedelic, and swirling --ÿproduced and recorded by the band in a house in the Catskills, Pigeons offers no substantial increase in recording fidelity, which turns out to be a good thing. More surprisingly, this album essentially jettisons both of the primary stylistic modes explored on the debut: the white-noise instrumentals are gone (and scarcely missed) but, with a few exceptions, so are the ambiguously ethnic, gentle world-pop vibes and much of the mantra-like melodic minimalism that contributed so much to the first album's appeal. Opener "Hibernation" floats fragmentary vocals atop a dense, stuttering Afro-beat lope, while the final two tracks, the circular chant "Vegetable or Native" and wordless, herky-jerky "Herbie I Love You," are built on layers of skeletal, intriguingly polyrhythmic percussion --ÿbut that's about the extent of this album's global grooving. The eight intervening tracks form a motley, unfocused assemblage of eclectic indie pop, sometimes with a worked-up rhythmic drive -- the jaunty single "Collector" and the submerged-feeling "Moon" suggest either the mechanistic intensity of Krautrock or, less charitably, tepidly frenetic, warmed-over post-punk -- sometimes more ethereally floating. "Bottom Feeder" is vaguely countryish, making fine use of Temple's thin, overstrained pipes (shades of Neil Young reediness), while the curiously carnivalistic "Old World United," definitely the oddest thing on here, recalls the debut's old-timey waltz "Everything's Big." There's nothing particularly wrong with any of this, but despite this expanded stylistic and instrumental palette (and some notably lush, lovely vocal harmonies), it's hard to escape the sense that this album is, ironically, even more of an indulgently dabbling affair than its home four-tracked predecessor, which at least had an appealing simplicity and directness of approach. In the words of this album's prettiest tune: "it's casual, not mindshaking." And that's just OK. ~ K. Ross Hoffman
Mojo (Publisher) (p.92) - 3 stars out of 5 -- "['Collector' is an] off-kilter juxtaposition of gentle bliss-pop and itchy, angular indie..."
Paste (magazine) - "The music is richer, more atmospheric and stranger than ever....With Temple's sleepy voice, songs like 'F.F.A.P.' and 'Casual' sound like distorted bedside lullabies."
Pitchfork (Website) - "Here We Go Magic attack their shape-shifting sounds with enthusiasm and purpose, applying details like the honking keyboard line in 'Old World United' and 'Hibernation''s bouncy bass to flesh out songs rather than as affectations."
Uncut (magazine) (p.108) - 4 stars out of 5 -- "Here We Go Magic remind a little of The Sea And Cake, particularly opener 'Hibernation' and the rapidfire sparkle of 'Collector'."