The Magic Numbers The Magic NumbersThe Runaway
Four and five years respectively have gone by since their two studio LPs, and today the older songs of The Magic Numbers are still in good shape. I never considered myself a fanatical fan, but it’s easy for me to compliment them again and enjoy the liveliness of the most radiant songs ( “Forever Lost” and “Take a Chance”) and turn a blind eye to the filler, which is certainly there. Precisely for that reason -because I was never one of the ones who fell down at their feet- the announcement of “The Runaway” intrigued me from the beginning. The first, positive impressions received from friends who had heard it, and the fact that they had taken a nearly five-year break to think things over, fed into my curiosity about what one could see a mile away would be a real change in their style. Well, the Magic Numbers of “The Runaway” are a group with a really different approach, and I can say that they have won me over like they never did in the old days.
Majestic and thoughtful where everything was more flippant before, “The Runaway” took shape from a selection from forty songs written over the last three years. Starting with them, the Stodart and Gannon siblings—brother and sister married to sister and brother—gave shape to a sophisticated, mature work that still has room for its authors’ inherent candour. The direct reference that leaps to mind is that of Fleetwood Mac circa 1977, at their most florid, with a splendid Angela in the role of Stevie Nicks. “The Runaway” has more of the tone of the fantastic “Tusk”, that look of an album that in spite of the exuberance of the arrangements also keeps infinite, dark secrets to itself: the downcast central part with “Throwing my Heart away” and “Restless River” seems to leave some things unsaid. Setting aside their skill at composing immediate hymns, the group is throwing itself into becoming a band that writes more now with its heart than with its head, appealing more to melancholy than to euphoria, and that has wanted to get beyond the guitars to run into a garden with a serenely lovely sound. Yes, they have thrown themselves fully into the studio and set aside their live show side, giving up clear singles that they say didn’t fit in with the general tone of “The Runaway” (look alive, fanatics, they have them stored away and have announced that they will release them on their website).
The Magic Numbers have cleared their heads, and seem to have reset themselves, especially regarding an industry that was about to swallow up their humble spirit. That’s why “The Runaway” seems to sound like they are “running away” from hits, “running away” from what they were before, and from a success that even they understood was too much for them. Fresh and full of feeling, they have found the ideal average tone for their career, more bitter and earthy, more sincere and profound. The fact that they recorded with the help of the Icelander Valgeir Sigurðsson (who has recorded Björk and Will Oldham, but also Sam Amidon and Ben Frost) adds points, but the biggest addition to the album was contributed by the recently deceased Robert Kirby. Kirby, who was responsible for the exalted arrangements on Nick Drake’s recordings and was a member of Strawbs, died last October after finishing this, his final recording. And doing justice to his mastery at sticking close to the sound of the groups with whom he worked, he hit the nail on the head with this group, writing some masterful chords for “The Runaway”. Chords that perhaps at times are too sugary, but which will never spoil our listening if we understand them as his last wishes.
The Kirby touch impregnates everything from the beginning. It’s impossible to escape the opening with the deep “The Pulse”, not to succumb to the bittersweet choruses of “Hurt So Good”, or not to delight in the song that is closest to a hit-single, the polished “Why Did You Call?” The wonderful arrangements can be a bit out of place at times ( “Only Seventeen” and “Sound Of Something”, the weakest song here), but they stand out in the final sprint with “Dreams of a Revelation” and the Style Council outpourings of “The Song That No One Knows” . “The Runaway” is, on the whole, the most heartfelt and balanced of the group’s albums, although it might also seem like the most obtuse to get a handle on, and the one to approach with the greatest respect. With it, The Magic Numbers install themselves in a classicism that might not take root right now, but which over time will change its skin to end up tinting their image with a lovely sepia shade. The crowd that in the UK that are right now giving their hearts to Mumford & Sons might not want to show up in the photo, but followers of the more finicky Rilo Kiley and The Cardigans shouldn’t miss trying this for anything in the world. Cristian Rodríguez Magic Numbers - The Pulse