The Majestic 12: Years 1994-1998

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Much as there's never any shortage of obscured funk 45s from the '70s turning up on compilations or rare unknown private-press psych albums from the '60s being reissued, there's a whole other segment of unheard music in the deeply esoteric world of '90s underground indie pop. K Records was founded with a goal in mind of connecting an "international pop underground," and throughout the '90s that specific underground was thriving, consisting of hundreds of bands that normally didn't live much past a few insanely limited 7" singles or compilation tracks. One such band was California's Majestic 12, also known as MJ 12 and later going on to be just plain Majestic when vocalist Jana Wittren left in 1997. Majestic 12 released three singles and recorded a few unreleased songs in their earliest incarnation, drawing influence from the dreamy reverb-soaked pop of Galaxie 500, the jangly rumble of the C-86 scene, and the bookish yearning of the Sarah Records roster. The 13 tracks here represent seven tunes from singles and six recorded but unreleased until this compilation. The band bounds through a few different styles here, including the slightly country shuffle and twang of "Cold Wind," the detached spaciness of "Ocean Rain," and the lazy devotional indie pop of "Nothing on TV." Even when Majestic are dangerously close to being little more than a Galaxie 500 clone, as on the remarkably derivative "Lost and Found" or the bass-driven fuzz of "Closer," they still capture enough of the spirit of their specific scene to transcend. The compilation shows the band taking notes from several different segments of contemporaries, be it the spaced-out blisspop of Jessamine, Rocketship, and Bowery Electric or the sugar-coated brilliance of twee acts like Tullycraft and Tiger Trap. That principal songwriter Scott Schultz would eventually go on to co-create the musically inclined children's TV show Yo Gabba Gabba just speaks to the bright-eyed innocence and sometimes naive sweetness of Majestic 12 and the brief discography they left behind.

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