Magic Man’s Before the Waves doesn’t disappoint with its synth beats, catchy lyrics, and Alex Caplow’s quivering voice. Before the Waves offers more variation between the consistent styles of their two previous releases. “Honey” harkens back to their slower yet powerful roots, and hits like “Apollo” and “Chicagoland” continue the catchy beats that force you out of your seat and into musical euphoria. The increased presence of Justine’s female backup vocals is a welcome change, and they compliment Alex quite well. The album takes you through a flurry of emotions. The more I listen to this album, the more I love it. I can definitely see the synth pop tunes of Magic Man become the next alt hit. If you got the digital copy, don’t miss their new rendition of “South Dakota” from the CD. -Tyler Simpson
After listening to it over and over and over again, I’ve come to a happy conclusion – that Magic Man has time traveled here from the eighties. And though their synth-heavy beats, distant sounding voices, and low-toned bass place them about thirty years too late on the musical timeline, it’s more than okay, because other bands are doing it too. If there’s one thing that’s missing from this album, it’s more Justine. Bands like Of Monsters and Men and The Colourist show us just how breathtaking indie duets can be, so I wonder why Magic Man hasn’t gone in a similar direction, even for a song or two. These songs highlight the vocal talents of lead singer Alex Caplow, whose deep quivering voice can be compared to that of The Killers’ Brandon Flowers.
But fear not, they deliver wholeheartedly—full of solid electric beats, hazy (good hazy) vocals, and synth. The timing is perfect, nearly every song could serve as your summer anthem for barbecues, beaches, and so on and so forth.
Besides the story-like lyrics, Before the Waves would not be the polished product it is without the magical sounds of their ever present synth, which adapts to fit the mode of any song. On “Honey,” it is used minimally, providing a soft backdrop to a tale of a man not ready to give up on what was once promised to him when he sings “you never told me why, only that it’s best to try to just forget, but I’m not finished yet.” However, on “Every Day,” the upbeat poppy synth compels the listener to get up and dance while Caplow sings “everyday I want to feel alive,” and after this track there is no way you won’t want to as well.
“Before the Waves” fits snugly in the realm of euphoric dance rock marked by widescreen melodies, choruses as sticky as cotton candy, and synthesizers that pack a punch the way you’d expect guitars to. The songs, particularly first single “Paris,” unfurl with an emphasis on keeping everything light and airy. Frontman Alex Caplow has a similar sweep in his voice, the kind of majestic croon that suggests it will sound perfect in stadium-size sing-alongs.
Before the Waves is a cohesive album, but at the cost of diversity. Magic Man have almost developed a formula for their songs. In the beginning of most songs, we hear rhythmic synths foreshadowing the rhythm of the chorus. As the rhythm changes, a verse reveals a story with lovesick words. We then hear a vibrant chorus pulsing through, with lyrics that have something to do with fantasies, feeling a spark, or the fear that the magical burst of sunshine might just fade away. When listening to the album, part of me wishes Magic Man would vary their instrumentation more. Part of me wishes they would expand their lyrical content beyond that magical, blissful night. Part of me wishes that some songs would reveal the aftermath of the fantasies, the spark actually fading away, or maybe even a cold rush of water to pull us out of the fantasy. But there’s none of that. Before the Waves thrives in a classic indie-pop space: a portrait of the best parts of youthful bliss. We hear all about the sun and the sparks, and the instrumentation reflects this energy. But we never hear someone actually hit the water. The album’s title rings true; with all its impeccable production, the album offers us a perfect portrait of a youthful sprint to the water, just before hitting the waves.