The Other Man's Blues by Magic TrickRelease date: August 26, 2016
Label: Empty Cellar Records
Formerly from California, Magic Trick is a solo vehicle for Tim Cohen of The Fresh and Onlys. Created at a time of major change in Cohen’s life (new baby, moving to a horse ranch), the isolation of living in the northern Arizona desert seems to have sharpened his songwriting. The album was recorded at Lucky Cat Studios in San Francisco, and numerous guest musicians appear on the record, including James Barone (Beach House) who takes a lead role on the drums accompanied by James Kim (Fresh & Onlys).
That background aside, you can expect a fully realized suite of songs ranging with West Coast folk and psych overtones. ‘More’ has a spectral web of female voices, surrounding you with a dusky skein of enchanted wonder. When Tim joins in, the song becomes brighter and less of a mood piece. There are neat instrumental snatches floating through, including cool organ and light percussion.
‘Forest of Kates’ is a firm favorite, reminding me quite a lot of some of Belle and Sebastian’s more recent work. I love the tinkling piano and trumpet, which really dress up the song. The whole song has a laid back feel, and I can feel myself relaxing as it unfolds. Don’t be fooled by the seeming lightness of the songs, there are hidden depths everywhere, which I suspect is somewhat deliberate on Cohen’s part. ‘I Held the Ring’ trods the same melodic territory as DIIV, while ‘Scorpio’ has some rather swell violin. My initial thought about First Thought’ was that it sounds like the Dead, a band I don’t follow.
‘Mockingbird’ ramps up nicely and has pretty great male and female vocal turns. ‘Eternal Summer’ is the song some critics are comparing to Fleetwood Mac. Sorry to say, it doesn’t evoke that band for me. I am reminded a bit of The Band though, because you have to dig that organ rolling over everything along with some tasty guitar licks. ‘Purest Thing’ is lovely, dreamy music, while the follow-up ‘Startling Chimes’ is a bit of an R&B romp. Finally, ‘Oysters’ shuts down this gentle release with an infusion of warmth. In summary, this is a fine release from the Fresh and Onlys frontman that fans of that band as well as fans of West Coast folk and psych will appreciate.