Monday, October 10, 2016

Album Review: Magana - "Golden Tongue" EP - A Cosmically Bright Debut

As someone who writes about music when I am exposed to something new I sometimes wonder if my reaction to said music is not only about it (itself) but also how it falls within all the other music that has invaded my heart and head in recent days and weeks. As of late I have written about the abstract art of Agnes Obel, the immediate and ferocious punk of XURS, the dreamy and stunningly heavy noise art rock of Dumb Numbers and the almost musical reawakening of the iconic Pixies. I  suppose I have a fairly eclectic taste in music and that brings me to Brooklyn based musician and photographer Jeni Magana who as Magana is about to release her debut EP entitled Golden Tongue via South London / South Florida's Audio Antihero Records.

Magana's aesthetic blends elements from all those aforementioned artists or respective genres of music. First and foremost there is an art rock element to her sound which I like a lot. Like Agnes Obel whose thoroughly dreamy /fantasy vibe seems to be part of her DNA, Magana has that sense too, that sense of drama and of theater. It is the way she poises her voice in her songs. It is what Bowie did and St. Vincent does. There is a staged quality, a dramatic flair. It is that gaze at the stage lights vibe. Now this is not to negate the deep emotional tug that you feel when you listen to her vocal performance. That is there too. The blend of theater and emotional intimacy is alluring to say the least. Now while I will always love the theatrical part of rock music I equally love the opposite. That is why I love proto punk and punk so much. Like the aforementioned XURS whose take is immediate raw fury and the Pixies whose artistry which has always been a byproduct of their performance but not planned or staged. While Magana has that theatrical art rock sensibility I sense a punk heart as well. Now onto her all too brief collection of songs on "Golden Tongue"-

Track 2: Inches Apart with it's electric guitar picking feels so intimate. The guitar has a hollow sound but with a faint distortion. When I hear picking on an electric the result is so different than on an acoustic. There is always the promise of an explosion. Even if it doesn't occur, that tension is there. Magana's vocal performance is everything you want it to be. She phrases her words in her own way as she sings, "You were born with thicker skin..... and I am only oxygen.... Whispering, darling please don't stay... because you can leave but I won't wait." Ouch, wow.  By the way, the guitar doesn't erupt or explode but it doesn't matter, the emotional beautiful damage has already been done.

Track 1: Get It Right has a sparse though dynamic sound with Magana's voice with that has that on top of the mic over modulated sound. The drums sound / feel textured and punchy as played by Jonathan Smith (from The Can't Tells) who also recorded all the songs at Galaxy Smith Studios. The song almost shuffles, with cool down beats. Again I thought a bit of St. Vincent and oddly enough Aimee Mann for some reason. Very cool fluid song.

Track 4: The title track Golden Tongue finds Morgana sounding more rhythmic and straight indie rock. I thought of Aurora and Warpaint (a bit). Loving the grit in her vocal performance and the rushed passages in the vocal melody. The bigger crescendos feel very cool although the song seems to end abruptly. Better to leave them wanting more I suppose and I do.

Track 3: The World Doesn't Know yet shows another musical facet. A bit more whimsy. The guitar up fanning feels very keyboard like and the song has an almost sweeping tone. This could be a theme song on the next Bond film. It has that kind of statuesque tone.

Jeni Magana was born in Bakersfield, California, grew up playing classical music on clarinet and upright bass before finding her way to the Berklee College in Boston where she began penning her own songs. Her musical journey lead her to New York. She was in a number of bands (Oh Odessa, Gina's Picture Show, Annie and the Beekeepers). She recorded commercial jingles and was a session and touring musician for the Dropkick Murphys. I imagine all that and, well, everything else in her life has lead to this beautiful emotionally wrought debut called Golden Tongue. I just have a strong sense that Magana is going places. I mean I could see her (right now) opening up for St. Vincent on her next tour. Yes that should happen. It feels right to me. After that I want to hear Magana's full length.
Robb Donker

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