Street Sounds: Magic Man modernizes synth pop

Magic Man’s debut album Before the Waves is a shiny, happy, festival friendly throwback to swirly 1980s electro-pop.  

American synth-pop quintet Magic Man’s debut album, Before the Waves is a shiny, happy, festival friendly throwback to swirly 1980s’ electro-pop.

Magic Man could be clones from the DNA of pastel hued synthesizer geeks like Tears for Fears and Soft Cell except that the technology is kept in check and melody is strong throughout.

Despite Magic Man’s synth derived resurrection sound, the group has a keen sense of inspiration in their music (Tonight).

Vocalist, Alex Caplow is possessed of boundless good cheer and an energetic delivery. He doesn’t hold back. Likewise, the group matches his drive with shiny, happy songs aplenty. They know their craft inside and out: simple beats, cheesy sound effects, arcing keyboards and semi anthemic posturing.

All this melodramatic delivery needs a big space in which to work its synthetic magic out. Songs like Chicagoland aren’t breaking any new sonic ground or saying anything original but an appearance at Glastonbury or at least as a token synth band at a trendy hippie fest would illuminate its artificial power.

Some tracks have hypnotic pull (Honey, Apollo) while others strive for crowd buzzing anthem status, (the un-Texan sounding Texas).

The most compelling songs are the romantic ‘80s tinsel tunes that are so unabashedly up tempo that you wonder if the band is faking it (Paris, Catherine). Judging by the rest of the melodic synth love-in, they’re not.

Dean Gordon-Smith is a Vernon-based musician who reviews new releases for The Morning Star every Friday.