APPLES IN STEREO REVIEWS:
New Magnetic Wonder (2007)
Album Score: 13
Any friend of The Electric Light Orchestra is a friend of mine. It's important you know that before you read the rest of the review. When I listened to New Magnetic Wonder for the first time only a few months ago, I was delighted to hear these lovely, happy pop songs put to such heavy orchestration. If you're one of the weirdos and never took to Electric Light Orchestra, then you'll probably be left amiss by this. That's just a fair warning, because this is going to be one of the most glowing reviews that I could possibly write.
This album has one particular song in it that is sure to stop you in your tracks whether you've heard it before or not. It's “Energy,” and it's pop heaven. Everything they pack onto it seems to be made of gold—the bubbly acoustic guitar, poppy electric guitar, determined rhythm section, Mellotrons in the instrumental interlude. (Yes! They use Moody Blues style Mellotrons!) Most importantly, the melody is something you'll want to hold on with you long after you've listened to it for the first time. I think so highly of this song that I'm willing to put it up there with Paul McCartney's “Band on the Run,” ABBA's “Dancing Queen,” Elton John's “Rocket Man” … It's that good.
Surprisingly, the other material on this album hold together extremely well! As I mentioned earlier, the vast majority of this has a distinct ELO-flavor, and I'd dare to say that Apples in Stereo mastered that sound so well that they would sound perfectly at home in an ELO compilation. (Well, except the lead singer sounds nerdy and whiny, and thus not anything whatsoever like Jeff Lynne. But if Jeff Lynne had laid down his voice for these, then nobody could tell the difference.) “Can You Feel It?” gets things off on an exciting note with that heavy wall-of-happiness style orchestration and a toe-tapping rhythm. The second song “Skyway” perhaps isn't quite as catchy, but it's just as sunny, and I absolutely love my life when I'm listening to it. ...There really should be more music around that makes me love my life.
I want to discuss more highlights, but this is one of those albums where pretty much every song is a highlight. Maybe a particular favorite of mine is “Same Old Drag,” which is probably the most uncanny ELO impersonation of the bunch. “Radiation” is without a doubt one of the sweetest and happiest songs that ever existed, and it doesn't seem corny to me whatsoever. The heavy sliding strings and Beatlesesque melody of “Open Eyes” sounds a bit like “I Am the Walrus” and it's nearly as delightful. I even have an immense fondness of the more straight-forward rock 'n' roll numbers “The Sunndal Song” and “Sunday Song.” I grouped them together, because they sound exactly alike to me, but I would gladly welcome an entire album filled with happy stuff like that.
Maybe the weakest pop song here is “Sun is Out” which comes across as an unpolished half-tribute to The Polyphonic Spree, but I would be lying to you if I said I didn't find that piece quite uplifting as well. It's safe to say that if I even like that song, then I like every song. My one and only complaint with this album is that for whatever reason, they cluttered it up with a bunch of short tracks of either half-developed song ideas, sound effects, or just screwing around with a vocoder. Some of these small tracks are mildly interesting, but as as whole they come across as litter to what would have otherwise been a nearly immaculate pop album.
I want to conclude this by saying that New Magnetic Wonder is an exceedingly rare album, and if you have a penchant for sunny '70s style pop music, then you should stop what you're doing right now and listen to it! If you've been reading my reviews, then you'll probably know that I love this sort of music more than almost anything. I will be spinning this for many years to come.
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