The Magic Land of Radio

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Though some critics have suggested that Obi might be the next coming of the Go-Betweens, the band's debut album suggests they're more in line to become the next Czars. That's more than an acceptable fate for any band, though as of Obi's debut, the Czars have yet to take off and earn the acclaim they're due. While it's difficult to guess where The Magic Land of Radio will take Obi, it's quite easy to see where the band takes its listeners. Songwriter Damian Katkhuda favors the same kind of somber, country-tinged folk-pop that John Grant virtually patented on Before...But Longer and from which Mark Kozelek has made an entire career. There's a touch of the Go-Betweens subtle, charming pop, but Obi shows very little sign of that band's quirkiness, and they refuse to rock out except in very small, controlled passages. Bright, airy acoustic guitars rule the day. The clean and bold "Somewhere Nicer" merges a lap steel guitar and rolling melodies, recalling the country twang of early Yo La Tengo while referencing Nick Drake's Bryter Layter. "What's in a Name" is the other standout. It's a dark, rich mix of acoustic guitars and complex melodies, suggesting a more subtle Doves or Travis. Damin Katkhuda has a compelling, distinctive vocal delivery. His voice suggests a combination of Kozelek's croon and Bobby Gillespie's dreaminess. If The Magic Land of Radio took a few more chances, it would distinguish itself a bit more from the many contemporary new acoustic albums that have come from the U.K. While subtlety can be an art form, Obi might have played their cards too conservatively on their debut to break away from the pack.

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