Efterklang - Magic Chairs
I'll admit that I picked up Efterklang's most recent album Magic Chairs based mostly on the cover artwork. I had never heard them, or heard of them. But the whole "courtyard-reflecting pool-streamers" aesthetic really grabbed me. I passed the album up several times, on many trips to the local exceptional record store Twist & Shout because I buy music mostly on lists that I write out prior to embarking on such a journey. Record stores are beautiful, but for me often overwhelming. There's so much to see and hear, so I operate in lists. The point is, Efterklang was never on my list. Never. Still. That album artwork. And eventually, when I was looking to round out a purchase I decided to give them a quick listen at one of the huge-headphoned stations in the store. After quickly sampling the first few tracks, I picked it up. And I don't regret my choice, though Magic Chairs is an album of "mood music" rather than the mood-altering dance, or empowering hybridized upbeat stuff recently reviewed here. Efterklang, out of Copenhagen, Denmark, is like the European The National/Grizzly Bear, with a healthy helping of twinkling piano keys and thundering, deadened drums.
Magic Chairs opens with its most powerful track, a song called "Modern Drift" that fondles the line between upbeat and careful self-deprecation. There's a lot of piano and electronics running the show. Then the more downbeat stuff arrives, but not depressingly. "Alike" and "I Was Playing Drums" have that anthem quality found in early-mid-era Radiohead, and pacing that holds your interest without really lifting you up or motivating you. It's beautiful music. Strings enter, especially in "I Was Playing Drums" and these orchestral touches lend the music an air of sincerity and seriousness. "Raincoats" follows with a spare arrangement of muted claps, quiet vocals and some electronic touches that seems odd in the "four-spot" on albums that is often coveted as a place for another essential track. Vocalist Casper Clausen plays with his singing in mostly effective ways, allowing his voice to wane to a strained falsetto on "Harmonics," which features a very Grizzly Bear style backing vocal track... and a melody composed entirely of harmonics, tickled out of a distant guitar. "Full Moon" features Clausen pulling a sincere '80s pop, Sting-esque inflection for a song that feels displaced in time. The song has the dramatic qualities of theater, and lots of the so-now-in '80s style, with a touch of Revolver-era Beatles.
Efterklang builds a lush and creative album. And they're adept at layers of electronic, vocals, strings, piano and subtle guitar. The only failing is that they open too strong. A "fast" opening track sets up the discs remaining cool pace to seem somewhat plodding. There are definite gems here and excellent musicianship. And truly, the album art is dreamy and ethereal, just as the music inside reveals itself to be. Fans of Grizzly Bear and '80s downbeat will surely enjoy Magic Chairs.
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