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Album Review: The Magic Numbers – Alias

3 min read

Over the course of their three albums to date; 2005’s self-titled debut, Those The Brokes in 2006 and 2010’s The Runaway, London’s The Magic Numbers have shown that they can consistently deliver dynamic, sentimental indie-rock better than most. Comprising of two sets of siblings – The Stodarts (Romeo and Michele) and The Gannons (Sean and Angela), the quartet have always exuded an unguarded intimacy in their music that really couldn’t be achieved any other way. Their fourth album Alias only goes to reinforce their already stellar reputation as one of the true survivors of the mid-‘00s Brit-rock explosion.

The Magic Numbers - AliasFirst track Wake Up opens with some lilting, cinematic piano before building to some truly ballsy post-rock with some incredible harmonies which, thanks purely to biology, only siblings can really achieve. It lulls and undulates in a really impactful way and sets the tone perfectly for the rest of the record. The choruses of You K(no)w utilize some truly gorgeous string arrangements to counterbalance the starkness in the verses and throughout, there’s a sense of melancholy that works incredibly well. This is in part due to Romeo Stodart’s uniquely dexterous voice, which at certain points is hushed and plaintive, yet at others climactic and soaring.

Nowadays it’s a bold move to open any record with two songs around the 6-minute mark as Alias does, but the concise, overdriven Rumours vibe on Out On The Streets reels things back in wonderfully before lead single Shot In The Dark. Beyond the gloriously ragged guitar solo, it definitely showcases why they were chosen to support Neil Young and Crazy Horse on a recent string of European dates and oozes with the ‘70s authenticity of a band twice their age.

The opulence of Roy Orbison is an absolutely gorgeous stylistic nod to the man himself, yet still has a sound that can only be achieved by The Magic Numbers alone. Thought I Wasn’t Ready starts with a groove that sits somewhere between disco and tango but still manages to come across as a romantic spaghetti-western soundtrack – and that’s definitely a good thing. The Fleetwood Mac comparisons that have dogged the band since their inception are definitely low-hanging fruit in terms of “coed-rock band”, but they’re well deserved nonetheless.

If Thought I Wasn’t Ready alluded to disco, second single E.N.D. puts it on front-street. It’s wonderfully carefree and reverently detail-oriented in terms of the ‘70s aesthetic that permeates most of the record. Accidental Song borrows heavily from the sonic adventurousness of contemporaries like Elbow or Irish institution The Frames until the restrained urgency that starts Better Than Him builds to a pretty powerful climax by traveling from jagged indie-guitar to alt-country and everything in between. The atmospheric guitar work on Enough manage to save it from the age-old trope of penultimate-album-track-weakness and the set rounds out with Black Rose – a true wonder of dynamic control and the kind of supercharged folk at which you can imagine Neil Young knowingly smiling from sidestage.

Alias is definitely a record that isn’t aiming to please everyone, but in doing so, still manages to pretty damn well. It covers enough ground to not only cater to their already loyal fanbase, but reel in some newcomers as well. You can genuinely hear the lifelong love of real family members in each of the songs and this – as well as being a great band who write great songs – has to be the key to The Magic Numbers’ 12 years of success.