Magic Trick

River of Souls

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Tim Cohen, member of San Franciscan garagey jangle pop band Fresh & Onlys, had a long-standing moonlighting gig with his solo project Magic Trick by the time of third album River of Souls. In addition to the prolific output and consistent evolution of his main band, Cohen moved through various phases with Magic Trick, coming out of the obscured vocals and blanched songcraft of early albums with a clearer and more direct approach with the ten songs that make up River of Souls. Understated country-dusted indie pop is the baseline for most of the songs here, but Cohen and company treat each tune with both sincere sweetness and subtle production touches, resulting in an unexpectedly charming listening experience. Starting off with slow burner "Come Inside," Cohen drifts through '70s AM radio pop before opening the song up into watery electronic bass tones, his gentle raspy voice holding everything together. The slinky retrofitted guitars and mod-minded underpinnings of "The Store" call to mind the same cheeky humor of early Kinks in their most rapid-fire songwriting days, and similarly the pseudo-doo wop of "You Have to Do" and cowboy trappings of "Crazy Teeth" impart a sense of lightheartedness and humor into Cohen's strong and tuneful writing. Without jarring shifts, River of Souls covers a lot of stylistic ground, changing gears on almost every tune. The reverby guitars and Motown stomp of "My World" follow shortly after stretches of low-key smooth pop like "Bridge of Gold." Like Cass McCombs at his pinnacle, or Chris Cohen's (no relation) 2012 sleeper classic Overgrown Path, River of Souls finds a way to economically say everything the artist needs to say, touching on myriad ideas and styles, wasting no words, and making it look so easy.

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