Magic Chairs

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While not quite as innovative as their Nordic neighbors Sigur Rós and Björk, Efterklang taps into the Icelandic sound with electronic beats, moving orchestral backgrounds, and dreamy vocal melodies. For Magic Chairs, the Danish chamber pop ensemble's third album and 4AD debut, the approach is refined a bit. Recording for the first time outside of their home studio, the band tracked the basic drum, guitar, bass, and vocal parts outright, before returning to Copenhagen to add string and brass flourishes, courtesy of 17 accompanying musicians. While this may sound overblown, it's actually a step back from 2004’s Tripper, which featured twice as many guests, or 2007's Parades, which showcased a grand total of three choirs. Even with its massive production, Magic Chairs surprises by never feeling overly bloated. The arrangements accent and enhance appropriately, ebbing and flowing along with Casper Clausen’s passionate lead vocals. Opening anthem "Modern Drift" is the standout single, with its exultant “I can’t keep my head inside” chorus, but as dense as the album is, there’s an endless number of other patchworked sonic ideas to latch onto, digital and otherwise. Fans of Menomena, Elbow, and Grizzly Bear should definitely look into this.

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