The Magic Numbers

The Runaway

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While the sun-soaked, Mamas and the Papas-inspired leanings of their self-titled debut was a much-needed antidote to the plethora of ramshackle indie bands that dominated the mid-noughties, the two brother/sister pairings of the Magic Numbers failed to further their dreamy folk-pop sound ensured that follow-up Those the Brokes came and went without much fanfare just two years later. In danger of becoming a one-trick pony, the Stodarts and Gannons have wisely changed direction for third LP The Runaway. The uplifting West Coast harmonies and obvious '60s and '70s influences of their debut are still very much apparent, but this time around, they're surrounded by a more elegant orchestral production, aided by Valgeir Sigurdsson (Björk) and the late Robert Kirby (Nick Drake), who passed away shortly after recording. The atmospheric, Neil Young-influenced opening track "The Pulse," a gorgeous slice of brooding chamber-folk with a stirring but heart-wrenching chorus, sets the tone from the offset. The soaring hymnal qualities of the early Fleetwood Mac-esque "Hurt so Good," whose languid guitars and echoing percussion evokes the sound of waves lapping against the shore, the Michele-sung "Why Did You Call?" a convincing stab at downbeat chilled-out funk, and the chiming "Once I Had" an enchanting fusion of the Bangles-ish new wave melodies and slide guitar rockabilly, continue to indicate that Runaway is unlikely to yield any radio-friendly pop singles in the shape of "Forever Lost" or "Love Me Like You." Indeed, only the infectious jangly guitar pop of "A Start with No Ending" screams potential hit. But although its experimental nature is unlikely to reverse their chart fortunes, it's undeniably their most accomplished effort to date. Whether it's the melancholic Baroque folk of "Restless River," the string-soaked bluesy soul of "The Song That No One Knows," or the blissful lounge pop of "Dreams of a Revelation," Runaway never fails to charm. The critics who prematurely wrote them off as a California sunshine pop pastiche may just have to eat their words.

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