Magic Theatre

The Long Way Home

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The Long Way Home, the second long-player from ex-Ooberman members Sophia Churney and Dan Popplewell, continues in the vein of 2010's splendid time-travel tapestry London Town, once again pairing ornate chamber pop arrangements with confectionary melodies pulled right out of the Donovan Leitch playbook. Opting to forgo their debut's conceptual trappings in favor a looser yet no less fantastical narrative, the Magic Theatre have crafted a warm, multicolored, and mellifluous collection of heavily orchestrated, psych-tinged retro-pop songs that fall somewhere between the pretty sunshine pop of the Left Banke, the music box melodrama of Edward Scissorhands-era Danny Elfman, and the breezy lunacy of Twiggy. It's part Austin Powers' swinging London and part steampunk Rodgers & Hammerstein, but Popplewell and Churney manage to pull things off without completely descending into kitsch, due in large part to the fact that they never treat the material with anything other than pure adoration. Genre be damned, the duo takes on pastoral English folk ("The Long Way Home"), Bollywood bliss ("Festival of Fire"), breezy Afro-pop ("I Got the Answer"), and full-blown, Sgt. Pepper-inspired psychedelia ("Cathedrals of the Mind") with equal parts fervor and whimsy, even going so far as to offer up a cover of Vicky Leandros' ubiquitous '60s treacle-pop staple "Love Is Blue" ("L'Amour Est Bleu"). A pair of stellar ballads, "I Want to Die by Your Side" and "Your Hateful Armchair," and the ebullient single "It Was Glorious" dial back the opulence a bit, proving that the Magic Theatre are just as capable of operating within the crowded confines of contemporary indie pop as they are penning forgotten hits for long-dead go-go dancers to shake their fringed miniskirts to, but The Long Way Home is at its best when the lava lamps are turned on, the radio is tuned in, and the modern world drops out.

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