New Magnetic Wonder

Studio Album by released in 2007

New Magnetic Wonder review

New Magnetic Wonder is a long-awaited return-to-form

After a five-year absence, The Apples in Stereo have returned with their new masterpiece New Magnetic Wonder. The album is a long-awaited return-to-form. It's a real record, an ambitious 24-song-cycle that takes you back to the days when bands tackled this kind of project as a matter of principle. Frontman Robert Schneider after a stint in the Marbles returns with his boyish vocals, crooning over the complex music about skyways, celestial objects, and the idealism of friendship. His songs have always harked back to the pop artistry of Brian Wilson, Electric Light Orchestra and Jeff Lynne, as well as such near contemporaries as Pavement. This lovable band creates their best album yet tight pop melodies that play on their strengths, colourful music, and a sound that's just a little bit warped. It sprawls over two discs, but never feels like they're overstuffing it. This album is a bit different from other The Apples in Stereo albums, with a more streamlined sound. Most of the songs center on fast-driving guitar and drums, which make some wonderfully catchy melodies. But they're also draped in fuzz bass, piano moments, and waves of shimmering mellotron, shimmering distorted voice, quirky wavery electronica, and dozens of other instruments.

The Apples in Stereo offer an extraordinary tracklist

The Apples in Stereo kick off with the instantly addictive Can You Feel It?, a sunny-side-up pop-rock gem that's such a perfect summertime single it can almost make you forget that it’s winter now. The album's first section is filled with pretty straightforward Oasis-style pop anthems, exemplified in Energy. The music and Schneider's arrangements mark some of his best work, especially on this track where we get acoustic strumming, electric noodling, synthesized bells, Yoshimi-esque robot sound effects, and hand-claps rounding out the mix, creating a full and fantastic sound. Album midpoint Sun Is Out is a self-conscious glance backwards to the rural psychedelia of the group's mid-90s output, and the thick drone of Open Eyes is easily the most enjoyable update of that sound. 7 Stars follows close behind, the album's shiny high point. The verses are all about cosmic bodies and unrequited love, and the chorus is only made stronger by a slavish devotion to the vocoder. It's distorted and lovesick and beautiful. The Beautiful Machine song cycle is another standout, a 7-mintue-plus suite that keeps the album focused and ambitious even as we move through the extraordinary tracklist (though 11 of the album's 24 tracks are "link tracks" of around a minute or less). It's a fitting coda, beginning in Parts 1-2 with the hyper-speed pop that begins the album, before building into an epic close in Parts 3-4, layers of guitar and synth piling on top of each other before the strings come in and bring everything home.

The Apples in Stereo are subtly staying true to what pop music is all about

There came a time that the true meaning of pop music was lost in popular culture. Somewhere along the line Britney Spears, 'N Sync, and dozens of other now-forgotten artists came to exemplify pop as a here-today, gone-tomorrow music made to satisfy the wallets of record label executives more than the public. And while the pop explosion of the late 90s came and went, The Apples in Stereo were subtly staying true to what pop music was all about. Now the guys have once again provided their talent for writing catchy lyrics and music. Of course, with all the band’s changes – a new drummer, two new keyboardists, a new label (Yep Roc with Elijah Wood's Simian Records), and a new musical scale – some bold new moves should have been expected. Band members are spread all around the country too – bassist Allen and guitarist John Hill reside in Denver, Schneider and keyboardist John Ferguson live in Lexington, Kentucky – but newly focused rehearsal and recording time has helped them finely tune, and it certainly shows on the album. You will be rewarded with rich melodies, creative arrangements, and downright fun. New Magnetic Wonder takes this band onto a whole new musical level, and one that it will be hard for them to top. Absolutely stunning, and a great way to enter the new (musical) year.