ARTIST: Majical Cloudz
The sophomore release from Majical Cloudz, Impersonator, plays sort of like an ode to those moments when you were a kid that were maybe just a bit too dark or a bit too real to process at the moment. That pet that "ran away." That friend who moved. That family member you kind of knew (and would probably still recognize even to this day) - who just suddenly stopped showing up the same day your parents were shedding a few tears while telling you nothing was wrong.
It's a collection of nostalgic yet fatalistic musings that try to mask themselves as stark and poignant tales of trials and tribulations - and therein lies this ruminative album's biggest flaw as well as its greatest intrigue. Impersonator unfolds as a series of observations more than anything else, almost seeming to overcorrect for that blissful childhood ignorance by transforming one's state of mind from "I don't think..." to "I don't think...about dying alone." There is a mediative quality to this release that drives the progressively one-note content. Initially interesting and engaging songwriting tries to work as a single entity that progresses through confronting, questioning, and accept life but ultimately leaves us with only a few tidbits of hope or insight that are above the musings of a fortune cookie. The songwriting is strongest at the start, with fantastic quips such as “I’m a liar, I say I make music” or “say goodbye, but I don’t want to...then I don’t have to.” But it soon devolves, like maybe it’s supposed to, into segmented and fleeting thoughts/concerns that half-heartedly attempt to be holistic rather than create an engaging progression.
For an album about life, it's too narrowly (or maybe thoroughly) focused on a few specific, almost morbid, aspects of love, death, happiness, and sadness - although the presentation of the themes and the execution of the content stops it from sinking into an overpowering depression. The main problem is that never seems to be a point being made. Producer and collaborator, Matthew Otto, makes every swooping “ahh” or simple hum reverberate and fill the air with a purposeful allure, giving singer-songwriter Devon Welsh free reign to spin his tales of muted woe, but as a whole, they become the equivalent of jogging in the same spot (even furiously running in the exact same position would probably elicit a more visceral reaction). There's a levity and nostalgic acceptance to the fantastically fitting production that seems to be repressed by Welsh’s venture into this dusty, murky attic in the back of his mind. You could describe many of the tracks in similar fashion: mediative, ruminative, etc. The almost chanting repetition of certain crises the singer faces leaves little room for engaging material but still does a good job of inserting a thought into this cloudy atmosphere and just letting it linger. However, Welsh doesn’t allow for any real climaxes or turning points (ironically not even on the relatively upbeat "Turns Turns Turns") - it's all a stream of consciousness mediation session. A cleansing. But a cleansing is often messy, and, in trying to make his thoughts more accessible, Welsh stumbled into something a bit too repetitive and meandering.
Devon Welsh and his self-taught vocals aren’t always a highlight, which is a shame, because, due to the more reserved nature of the production, the weight of these philosophical musings rests almost solely on his shoulders. He’s developed a curious yet perfectly acceptable form of delivery that varies between a sort of folklore-type story recital and more typical singing. Albeit being an “indie-pop” record, more of a nod at the production and aesthetic rather than the songwriting and singing, Welsh hits the same winy croons as Andy Hull from Manchester Orchestra or even Jeff Mangum from Neutral Milk Hotel. Just not as convincingly. The higher pitches sounds great even if a bit familiar, but his personal nuances, from the way he pronounces certain words to the iffy lower registers he tries to hit, are definitely polarizing and an acquired taste. There are moments of manipulative brilliance as he spins the word “come” to sound like “come home” on “Childhood’s End,” and, for the most part, he seems to know his vocal restrictions but utilizes them well.
By the time we get to the question, “how much do I have to love to grow,” on the closer, “Notebook,” the mystic of the opening track, “Impersonator,” the infectiously sorrowful “Childhood’s End,” and the simply fantastic “Mister” have all become a haze - a byproduct of the self-indulgent structure. Instead of receiving insight, we’re left to ask a dozen more questions - but then again, maybe that’s the point. And that’s great for the post-album discussion but not so much for the music itself.
“How much do I have love to grow”