Magic Wands


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Los Angeles dream pop duo Magic Wands explore even darker hues on their sophomore LP, Jupiter. Core duo Chris and Dexy Valentine seem to have distanced themselves from the lush, electronic-based pop of their 2012 debut in favor of a more streamlined full-band sound. Joining them on this outing are drummer Charlie Woodburn and bassist Michael Schenk, who help propel these gauzy guitar jams that drink heavily from the cup of mid-'80s shoegaze and goth. The Wands' new format allows for more spontaneity and looser structures, especially on the extended dark psych of "Love Soldier," a six-minute Doors-inspired epic written in a Laurel Canyon mansion. The churning, heavily chorused guitars of "Dream Street" are very reminiscent of Disintegration-era Cure, and they employ similar layered guitar techniques throughout Jupiter's ten tracks. Although Dexy's beguiling vocals were always at the forefront of the band's sound, Chris' vocal contributions seem more deeply buried than before and the overall vocal presence is folded into the swirl of reverb that hangs like a fog over the album. The Wands' new sound suits them and the Valentines definitely have a knack for heavily treated dark pop, though they're certainly not the first to revive the shoegaze/dream pop flag. The lack of variety here can make Jupiter feel sluggish at some points and while pretty in its ambience, the single-chord instrumental 13-minute closer "Jupiter II" hangs on about ten minutes too long. Still, it's nice to hear a young band attempting to expand its horizons on just its second full-length effort.

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