For a duo that’s opened for such acts as The Kills and The Horrors, it’s not hard to trace Magic Wands
’ darker undertones lurking beneath their glitzy, nighttime hooks back to such pseudo-gothic bands. On Aloha Moon
, the first proper LP from Chris and Dexy Valentine, they teeter on the brink of shoegaze, but not quite – their larger interest in sultry mood and rhythm make this an overall impressive debut.
Magic Wands’ video messages to their fans online are astonishingly low-key, with light flares and Ray-Bans abound, and for a group as cheeky, however ironic or not, to dub their own sound as “lovewave”, some judgments might come flying before actually listening to the stuff. Sure, Aloha Moon is a pop record in the strictest sense, but it has the deceptively astral chops to stand behind with School of Seven Bells’ and Drowner’s releases from earlier this year as a lighter palette cleanser. Magic Wands also operate as a slower, gauzier Metric, but they’re an act finding their way and having a fun, smooth time doing it.
After 2009’s Magic Love & Dreams EP, the Valentines no doubt sought to refine their recording chops and take some hints from the big-name acts they toured with, and several songs reappear here in superior form. “Teenage Love” is blunt in its analogies, but it does the job, while “Crystals” is a stand out, an upbeat track with a brief, cutting guitar line alongside synths and clicking percussions filling the whole thing out. The hipster lounge music of the opener and the out-of-place distortion of “Kiss Me Dead” are small blights, but “Warrior” keeps up the duo’s slick-as-hell attitude, and the beauty of it is letting Dexy’s cozy voice ooze around you. While the single “Black Magic” has been around for a bit, it finds a perfect home here, with a poppy catchiness mixed with a leering, gossamer quality.
Chris and Dexy may be firmly located in Nashville for the time being, but their sound yearns for those Pacific nights, with a hazy moon illuminating San Francisco Bay. It’s going to take a bit more than sparkles and glitter, though, to propel their intelligently crafted dream-pop a bit further.
Essential Tracks: “Crystals”, “Black Magic”