Magik Markers

Surrender to the Fantasy

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For most of the 2000s, Magik Markers were one of the underground's most prolific bands, issuing a steady stream of singles, CD-Rs, and albums that culminated with 2009's Balf Quarry, which felt a little like a sampler of all the sounds they'd explored up to that point. They fell largely silent for the next four years, spreading out from their former Connecticut home base and starting families; when they returned with Surrender to the Fantasy, they were a gentler, slightly more focused band. Elisa Ambrogio, Pete Nolan, and John Shaw expand upon the drifting rock that wrapped around Balf Quarry's tangents like a psychedelic fog on these hazy, off-handed excursions: the opening track, "Crebs," almost feels like it starts mid-song, while "Acts of Desperation"'s slightly atonal moments don't dislodge its shambling groove. The no wave-tinged rock that dominated the band's early years is similarly fuzzy rather than harsh, and slow-burning instead of explosive. Ambrogio's feisty vocals on "Bonfire" only add to the impression that Magik Markers could be the Yeah Yeah Yeahs from a parallel universe where they stayed more indie, and the sludgy album-closer "WT" calls to mind a melted Royal Trux song. Surrender to the Fantasy's centerpiece, "American Sphinx Face," makes the most of Ambrogio's surreal political meditations ("I'm American, like the dream") and the album's hypnotic pace. The softer moments provide many of the highlights, from the gorgeously trippy "Screams of Birds and Girls" to "Young"'s lovely version of chamber pop. With its more considered, balanced approach, Surrender to the Fantasy feels more like a complete album than Balf Quarry's collection of moments did. It may take a few more listens to surrender to its fever dreams, but it's well worth the effort.

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