Magic Wands

July 27, 2008

Perhaps it’s supposed to be endearing but the above picture kind of freaks me out. Ever since I saw an early TV adaptation of Narnia as a kid I’ve been a bit wary of creepy stuffed lions. Thankfully, Magic Wands have some really sweet tunes to make up for bringing my childhood fears back to haunt me. Plus, the story how the duo got together is actually rather endearing.

Chris and Dexy first met briefly in 2006 and didn’t get in touch again until a year later when Chris fell in love with a song he’d found on MySpace. As it turned out, said song (“Teenage Love”) just happened to by sung by – tada! – Dexy. Since they lived far apart they communicated mainly through e-mail and phone calls, even making songs together on the Internet. Apparently this is were the (in my opinion) creepy stuffed lion comes in – Chris and Dexy would send each other packages, such as toy lions, old records, candy and even handwritten poems. Yes folks, this is a love story.

The two finally met up in L.A., realized that they were destined to be together and somehow ended up in Nashville where they began recording music under the name of Magic Wands (a magic wand happened to be Dexy’s favorite gift that Chris had sent her). They are now set to release an EP in the fall.

The music of Magic Wands isn’t quite as sugary as one might think though – sure, they are very fond of things like magic, dreams and fantasy (and each other of course), all of which is reflected in their sound, but don’t except Rainbow Brite to jump out of your speakers. As much as their music is magical, Magic Wands are more like The Goblin King, you know, David Bowie’s character in “Labyrinth”: a bit dark, a bit rebellious and very seductive. To put it simply – they will put a hex on you and you will like it.

~ “Black Magic”, “Teenage Love” ~

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Before anything else, let’s get the whole “I-can’t-believe-it’s-not-a-girl-singing” issue out of the way. Because despite the very feminine-sounding vocals, Azeda Booth‘s lineup is solely an XY constellation.

Originally a duo when formed in 2004 by Morgan Greenwood and Jordon Hossack, Azeda Booth became five-piece when additional members Chris Reimer, Marc Rimmer & Mike Wallace joined the band in 2006. Their first EP, Mysterious Body was released last year although recorded while Greenwood and Hossack were still a duo. Their latest effort however, the full-length In Flesh Tones (Absolutely Kosher, 2008) showcases the current Azeda Booth.

If the vocals weren’t enough to throw people off when trying to define what they are, the music of Azeda Booth is no exception:

“They twist and flutter, too skittish for space rock, too hot for IDM, too concise and charming for glitch-core… The arrivals and departures are hazy and blurred, the tone both tense and delicate, the fuel potent and clean, the direction most definitely UP.” (from the official website)

The above quote is a good description of their sound – it is quite scattered and at times abstract, yet somehow the pieces fit together nicely. Broken down into components you can find bits of shoegaze, experimental, ambient electronica and pure pop.

While I’ve only just started to acquaint myself with Azeda Booth, and therefor perhaps still a bit lost in their mist, there are tracks on the album that speak to me immediately (“Ran”, “In Red”, “Big Fists”) and others which I am still happily discovering (“First Little Britches”, “Lobster Quadrille”, “Well”). Although the hazy moments may drag down the overall impression at times, In Flesh Tones is definitely worth to explore and discover in its fullest.

~ Azeda Booth – “Ran” ~

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This is a blog. A music blog, even.

So it makes complete sense that I post about “Dr. Horrible’s Sing-Along Blog” here.

Haven’t seen it yet? Well, here are some good reasons why you should:

* Joss Whedon wrote it

* Nathan Fillion plays a stupid superhero who refers to his penis as a hammer

* Neil Patrick Harris has a really nice vibrato. When singing, that is…

* Felicia Day is about the cutest thing ever

* It’s funny

All three acts are up now. Go watch! (ETA: All parts will be taken down midnight (EST) on July 20th, after that the show will be available to purchase via iTunes)

Katie Stelmanis

Armed with a classically trained voice and a spooky electronic sound, 23-year-old Katie Stelmanis makes me think of what Kate Bush might sound like if she collaborated with a robot and a ghost.

Yes, weird description but that’s what comes to mind when listening to Katie’s debut album, Join Us, right from the brilliant opening track “In My Favour” all the way through to the closing (and rather surprising) cover of “(You Make Me Feel Like) A Natural Woman”.

Because this album is far from natural or organic in its sound: it’s rather harsh and metallic, and might challenge those who simply want to enjoy Katie’s beautiful, strong voice with its intensity. Sure, Join Us has some softer moments, but don’t be fooled: “You’ll Fall” starts off rather innocently only to turn out containing an ear shattering noise that could very well be used in torture.

Still, Join Us is nothing short of amazing. I’m glad that Katie took this route with her music, rather than the soft singer/songwriter sound which some might feel would showcase her voice better (and to a broader audience). The contrast between the computerized sound and Katie’s skilled vocals only enhance one another.

That, combined with a gallery of great songs makes Katie Stelmanis one of the most interesting and exciting debutantes of 2008. Or as it says on her MySpace: “STELMANIA!!”

~ “Join Us” ~