Album Review: Efterklang – Magic Chairs
It’s a tricky thing coming at a band that you’re not entirely familiar with, that also ride on a wave of critical praise. It’s as if you have to like them, and if you don’t, your opinion is somehow defective. Nothing forces a person into their shell further than the feeling of being forced to do or think something against his or her will. When these factors are combined with the descriptive “slow burn” (as they were with previous Efterklang release Parades) it sets off a bomb in the neurotic mind of the music lover. “Will I ever like? Is it worth the effort?” And soon enough we’re back to the effortless, casual warmth and easy pleasure that comes with a familiar album. It’s lazy, but so so appealing.
Efterklang have always eschewed such apathetic attitudes towards music listening. Their tunes are often hard work, stubborn obstinate mother fuckers that ultimately penetrate our minds’ hard exoskeleton, and set our endorphin and serotonin glands running on maximum capacity.
So it comes as a surprise when Magic Chairs opens with one of their most accessible tracks to date, ‘Modern Drift’, which sounds like The Arcade Fire on valium, playing in a cupboard. It’s a beautifully direct moment that draws you in, and makes the following, otherwise less accessible, tracks more accessible.
In fact, from ‘Modern Drift’, the album plunges into the night, often sounding like the last album before bed, and/or crack of dawn, its resoundingly peaceful and relaxing atmosphere acting more like a mug of hot chocolate than a sleeping pill. The sounds are natural, orchestral and serene employing complex vocal harmonies and string arrangements to create an outcome that is always somewhat alien and hard to place.
It’s frequently hard work, never far from being self-indulgent, and you’re always wondering whether the effort you’re forced to put in is worth the pay off – a feeling I also had when listening to the first Razorlight.
I think it probably is, but then I’m always twitching, like a man going cold turkey for something more instantly gratifying, like Passion Pit or alcohol.
Stick with Magic Chairs and it could be your new OK Computer or In The Aeroplane Over The Sea, or it could be like waiting for Hayley’s Comet on a cloudy day. Your choice.
Release Date 22/02/2010 (4AD)