Thursday, December 19, 2013

Magnolia: “Magnolia” (2013) CD Review

Lately I’ve been hearing a lot of great discs from Canada. The newest one for me is the excellent debut EP from a band called Magnolia. This band hails from Halifax, and is made up of Leanne Hoffman on vocals and Scott MacLean on guitar and vocals. Joining them on this self-titled release are Clive MacNutt on bass (and guitar on a couple of tracks) and Benn Ross on drums. Erin Costelo, who produced the CD, plays keyboards and saxophone. Phil Sedore, who recorded the release at his studio in Musquodoboit, adds cello, trombone and lap steel to a few tracks.

The lead-off track, “Anybody’s Neighbor,” opens with a kind of sweet, fun groove, which I immediately enjoy. There is a slightly breathy quality to Leanne’s vocals at first. “Did you think we could walk away/Did you think it would all be okay?” There’s a nice build to the tune as well, when Leanne sings, “And you’re asking me why I can’t sleep at night.” I also dig that little fun change on guitar near the end. This is a wonderful tune, and a strong opening track.

I love Leanne’s vocals even more on “Wandering.” Her voice has a great jazzy element on this track. And there is some excellent work on guitar as well. This tune has a hip vibe that I love. Phil Sedore plays both lap steel and trombone on this track.

Leanne’s vocals have more of a power on “Time Will Tell,” due partly to the way the rhythm is structured and supports her. There’s nothing showy here, which helps to keep her vocals at the fore. Here is a taste of the lyrics: “And now our kisses make me nervous/I can’t help but want to lie/Just to keep things on the surface/Just to keep you by my side.” The song then changes, developing kind of a sweet attitude when she sings, “Baby, baby, baby, only time will tell.” There is something loving in her voice then. “You haven’t made a move in weeks, but you could say the same for me if you wanted to.”

“Honey Please” has a different feel, with the bass and drums starting it, and it being a duet, with Scott providing the second set of lead vocals. His singing style reminds me just a bit of Lou Reed or perhaps Adam Green of The Moldy Peaches – just the way he approaches the material. “These are the minutes we cling to/These are the days that will pass all too soon.” I totally dig the horns on this track. Erin Costelo plays saxophone, and Phil Sedore plays trombone.

The guitar’s opening bit in “The Thought Of Love” has kind of the feel of an early rock and roll love song. Leanne’s vocals have a sweet, sad quality and they rise about the guitar part (and the keyboard). “But changes make me lonely/And I adapt so slowly.” And then: “All these things I’ve said and done/I never meant to hurt anyone/But that’s of course what they all say/And it doesn’t matter anyway/’Cause I made decisions/You made some too/Who’s to say what we both should do/I think I’m too young for this anyway.” (Her delivery of the lines “Who’s to say what we both should do/I think I’m too young for this anyway” reminds me of Melanie.) I kind of fell in love with her voice during this song. This is a beautiful song.

The EP concludes with “Cold Dry Hands,” an interesting tune with a simple groove that I like. It’s the vocal line that really grabs me, as it goes in some surprising directions, giving the tune an overall delightful feel. “And we’ll climb some bigger mountains/We’ll fight some bigger wars.”

CD Track List

  1. Anyone’s Neighbor
  2. Wandering
  3. Time Will Tell
  4. Honey Please
  5. The Thought Of Love
  6. Cold Dry Hands

Magnolia was released on November 5, 2013. I am looking forward to hearing more from this band.

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