Whenever a good TV show goes off the air, people ask the stars and producers why they’re doing it. Why not stay until you’re canceled? Why not stay until you’re two or three seasons past your prime and nobody’s watching you anymore? Why not stay until viewers start asking why you didn’t quit while you were ahead?
I sometimes find myself in the same position of these TV fans when I’m listening to a really good album. One of my favorite albums, Fiona Apple’s When the Pawn…, is comprised of 10 tight tracks that run 42 minutes. I love every moment of the album and always wish for another few tracks as the last note of “I Know” fades. Yet, I know that the album is as long as it needs to be. It’s not about less being more; it’s about the right amount being just that–the right amount. And when those 10 songs are up, I feel like she’s said all that needs to be said.
Upon listening to Here We Go Magic, the self-titled debut of Luke Temple’s Brooklyn-based project, I had a similar experience. It’s not so much that I wanted another song, I just wanted the experience to continue a little longer than its brief 38 minutes.
On Here We Go Magic, Temple dabbles in quiet folk rock, ambient noises, and African percussion-all filtered through the DIY lo-fi indie aesthetic that prevents the album from being a mishmash of genres. The first four tracks are the strongest portion of the album, serving up a nice cross section of Temple’s sound. “Only Pieces”, the catchy opener, asks, “What’s the use in dying if I don’t know when? / What’s the use in trying dying if I don’t know when? / There are only pieces of me / What’s the use in dying if I cannot see?” No, really, laid over some fast picking and hollow percussion, you’d sing along with reckless abandon, too. And after a pleasant four minutes, the track fades away as softly as it arrived.
The next track, “Fangela”, mines the harmonies and cotton vocals of 1970s acoustic rock in a sweet, if not enigmatic, courtship hymn to the titular character. The lite jazz of “Ahab” is almost jarring because you might think for a moment that Temple is about to start desperately jumping from one genre to another, ruining his good thing. Luckily, he grounds the track with his monotonous but fuzzy vocal track. “Ahab” stands as an example of Temple’s desire to create a consistent musical atmosphere because, even though I can’t understand many words in this song, it sounds like an essential component of the LP.
The aptly named “Tunnelvision” concludes the album’s stellar opening run of tracks. It’s a repetitive indie rock track that grows more distorted as vocals continue to pile up and the tempo feels more frantic, even if it doesn’t actually change. The song also marks the first time we hear Temple’s voice venture into the higher range, proving he’s not just a droning emo boy.
The second half of the album is still good, but the decision to load it up with more ambient tunes tips the LP too heavily. After a stretch of memorable melodies, the whitewater rapids ramming against tinny crashes in “Ghost List” feel misplaced. The album’s biggest flaw is undoubtedly in its sequencing. The instrumental numbers should be scattered throughout the album because I guarantee you, if this were a vinyl LP, few listeners would ever feel the need to flip to side B. The tracks work, but they get lost amongst each other. Luckily, a little playlist tweaking can solve the problem.
Luckily, “Everything’s Big”, the fatalistic closer, assesses the grand themes of life in with some silly lyrics and lighthearted vocals. You could’ve found yourself doing the box step to this in 1952, if Temple weren’t reminding you, “We stuck around cause nobody wanted to die.” The lyrical allusion to the opening number and the track’s varied musical approach gives the album a tangible closure that’s missing from many albums today.