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The elastic pop songs of Here We Go Magic are like a musical approximate to the kinetic, carefully balanced mobiles of sculptor Alexander Calder. There is an immediate weightlessness and elegance to the movement of the pieces that belie the delicate, toiling construction at play, the everything in it’s right place of the design, the undeniable dedication to craft, the elbow grease, just how fussed over these pieces most certainly are. And more simply, like Calder’s mobiles, the songs seem to float just above us, in a space that feels just out of our terrestrial reach. And though HWGM’s new album Be Small finds the band taking a, well, smaller approach to production and finding more intimate soundscapes — from the live, expansive sound of 2012’s A Different Ship, produced by Radiohead’s 6th man Nigel Godrich, to Be Small’s direct-to-board home-recorded album — it hosts no less acrobatics of musicianship and a singular sonic ambition.
Inspired by the massively under-appreciated Eno/Cale tune “Spinning Away” from their collaborative album Wrong Way Up (1990) and by Robert Wyatt’s classic “Heaps of Sheeps” from Shleep (1997), HWGM’s chief songwriter Luke Temple set out to create a collection of “overtly major and optimistic” songs without coming across as cloying. The robust 90s future pop sound of these odd fellow heavyweights fits Temple like a sequin glove. Over six years and, now, four albums, HWGM has always found its own, idiosyncratic path through fidgety prog-rock, bliss-pop and sound collage experimentations — always, always, always with a heavy focus on groove. You can hear how these songs likely began as Temple’s bedroom folk riffs, but where they ultimately end up — here with the help of longtime HWGM collaborator and multi-instrumentalist Michael Bloch, as well as Austin Vaughn on drums — is near-transcendent and celestial.
The pulsating album standout “Falling” builds upon arpeggiated, satellite signal synths and joyous, interlocked acoustic strums and fuzzed guitar. It gathers momentum with each phrase about falling in love (though it’s unclear if this is a thing to be celebrated or dreaded) until the whole affair suddenly halts into a nothingness that sounds like a Gregorian chant from the bottom of a wishing well. When this narrator fell in love, just where did they fall to so suddenly? “Falling” is followed by the even strummier, even fuzzier “Candy Apple,” a cheeky ode to New York City, the place HWGM has called home since its genesis. “Here in New York City/It’s just like anywhere” triumphantly sings Temple’s multi-tracked voice over a punchy beat that feels more like a laid back, free range cousin of “Sweet Life” from Roberto Cacciapaglia’s 1980 Ann Steal Album (another early hallmark for Be Small).
Over the last 6 years HWGM has become a real “poet’s poet” among NYC musicians and bands. And it’s clear why. You can watch their hands and movements all you want. You can try and count out the time signatures. But you’re almost always left dumbfounded as to how their songs — with those seemingly simple jagged, synchopated licks and floating melodies — developed from Point A to Point B, where all is a swirl of sound and emotion and groove, jaw-on-the-floor stuff. In these times, where easy answers are a click away, we need this sort of thing more than we know, to be made, again, into babies amazed at the wondrous mobile spinning above us.
There are currently no tour dates for Here We Go Magic