I was trying to wait until this weekend to write about Majical Cloudz's new record Are You Alone? but I can't wait that long. It's too good. It's the only thing I want to listen to anymore, and when I'm not listening to it, I just keeping thinking, "okay, when can I listen to Majical Cloudz again?" I haven't felt this strongly about a new release since Nobody Wants to Be Here And Nobody Wants To Leave. Oh, yes, it's that good.
My history with Majical Cloudz is a strange one. Upon hearing their name come up a few times, I streamed Impersonator maybe a day or two before it was released, decided it was amazing, and bought it on vinyl. I even listed it on my Favorite Albums of 2013 midyear list but after a few months, I stopped listening to it. I never, ever revisited it either. But when their second album was announced, I got excited. I listened to it halfway through, shrugged my shoulders, and figured, "Well, I like the opening track. That's a great song." And it took about a week or two for me to revisit it.
I'm glad I did.
Majical Cloudz's music really needs some time to unravel for you. Upon first listen you're like, "Yeah, this guy's voice is great but uh, where's the music? Why is he so depressed? This is making me sad. I'm bored." And yeah, it does sound like a whole lot of the same thing when you first listen to one of their records (much like The Twilight Sad or Beach House) but then it will hit you, hard, and it will be one of the most rewarding listening experiences. Are You Alone? takes a few listens but it will hit you like a tidal wave, and it will all overcome you, and you will be in love. The record is beautiful. It's perfect. And it might just be the best record to come out in 2015.
I know what you're thinking. What about Viet Cong? What about Beach House? And Beach House? And Frank? Joanna Newsom? Sufjan!? Well, other than Viet Cong, I expected the others to be great. And they are. They're quintessential Frank Turner and Beach House and Sufjan Stevens and Joanna Newsom. And that's a great thing, truly, considering how much I enjoyed those albums. But it's always the ones you least expect that truly wow you. This record is infectious, and it's simplicity is exactly what makes it so beautiful. There isn't a weak track on it. And lyrically, it might be the best written record of the year. Devon Walsh (whose vocals are also so on point) doesn't write lyrics that are necessarily elaborate. He's not trying to write these complicated metaphors. It all fits the stark sparseness of the music. But they still say so much. Something like "you gotta learn to love me," or "remember when we used to say, "I don't know" and it was okay? I am going back to knowing nothing now," or "will you let me change?," or of course, my personal favorite, "if it ever goes wrong, I'll write you into all of my songs." I could go on forever and ever about how fantastic of a song "Downtown" is. "Downtown" and "Are You Alone?" and "If You're Lonely" and "Heavy" and and and...
And of course, there's the whole tone of the record. It's melancholy, sure but hopeful. It almost plays out like a concept album. The narrator of these songs is unsure of himself but sick of being lonely and ready to change and fall in love. And it all culminates with "Downtown," which is probably the best love song to come out in a long time. These feelings are real. They're relateable. They feel real. And genuine. I can often tell when artists, especially pop singers, are just pandering to their audiences (looking at you, Adele.) But Devon Walsh just feels so genuine.
Because he wrote this lyric:
in 1988 we were born, we survived
at the moment I sing, we're alive
We were born in 1988. And we're alive. And what's more genuine than that?