Though their sound belies the multi-colored confetti connotations of the band’s name, Majical Cloudz’ vocals and lyrics create a beauty and hope that penetrates their layers of melancholy instrumentation. The Montreal-based indie-synthpop band lies on the opposite end of the spectrum of other current keyboard-oriented outfits like Passion Pit, Foster The People and others of that ilk. Rather than inspiring new wave dance parties as those bands do, Majical Cloudz draws you in to drift over foggy English moors while contemplating loss, memories and the limitations of being human.
Vocalist Devon Welsh and instrumentalist Matthew Otto bring a delicate sense of desperation to the minimalist soundscapes. The wide open musical spaces of this rainy day soundtrack at times seem like they are set to kick into a big crescendo, leaving the listener surprised when they don’t. Otto’s stripped down chords on an almost bare sound canvas leave Welsh’s Ron Sexsmith-like baritone vocals to lead the songs in a direction that is reminiscent of the earliest, non-dance-pop output from the New Romantic Movement of the nineteen-eighties.
While the casual listener will likely hear a record whose songs sound very similar, one will pick up on the meticulously planned nuances and chord cycles which give depth to the songs upon multiple listens. The cycles of repeated loops are merely harmonics; a vehicle for angelic tones, gorgeous orchestration and distant percussion. The music could likely stand alone in taking us into dream-like soundscapes. But Welsh’s dominant vocals and succinct confessionals are the obvious focus.
Opening track “Disappeared” starts off as a slow moving stream, seemingly headed to a turbulent waterfall that never comes. Lamenting people now gone from his life, Welsh’s majestic vocals which exclaim “I am out of practice falling into love,” can be describes as “brightly sad.” As with all the songs here with titles such as “If You’re Lonely,” “So Blue” and “Easier Said Than Done,” Welsh’s acceptance of truths that seem bleak come out as paradoxically majestic with a confident, rich tone. The record is devoid of a single in the typical sense. But “Silver Car Crash” comes close to having pop sensibilities with its soaring keyboard and quasi-rock noise ending.
Majical Cloudz create an effortlessly haunting, at times soaring sound with very few resources. Comparisons to Elliott Smith and the singer known as Aqualung would not be far off. However, a rawer form of melancholia is present here. It’s as if the songs filter in, convey a direct message and end before getting caught up in any kind of musical or vocal filler. This is for people who like their sad, rainy days created by the bluest of skies.
Top Tracks: So Blue, Silver Car Crash, If Your’e Lonely
Majical Cloudz – Are You Alone? /2015 Matador Records/12 Tracks