01 May 2018 (released)
16 March 2018
Certain groups just have a feel locked down. A time of day that encapsulates their whole energy. Some bands have the workday grind down pat while a litany of artists all vying for the Friday night, party to end all parties market. In this case, Chicago recording collective Magical Beasts have their feet firmly planted in Sunday evening. The group's style of laid-back Americana with its unhurried cadences, cattails blowing in the wind pedal steel and potluck backing vocals instantly transports you to the back porch on a lazy evening. Dinner's dishes are being shuffled off the table, the animals are finding a spot to curl up and the instruments are coming out to sing the sun off for another day.
This May, Magical Beasts will release both a seven-song album and a five-track EP simultaneously. Peninsula is a concept album which drops in on its characters in various states of evolution/devolution as they try to find their way in the world and grow as people and the EP When Love's a Stranger focuses on the misadventures throughout the search for love. Today we'll be taking a look at the former. Peninsula has a little more bounce than its companion EP. The stories more often take on a third person perspective, tackling broader concepts rather than anecdotal diary writing.
'King of the Undead' kicks the album off with a kind of lively saunter. The author speaks in defiance to the titular character with support from a host of talented, bluegrass-minded backing vocalists. Bandleader Nathan Paulus' voice is warm but steadfast in representing the light side of the battle. The support of the horns comes to further steady his resolve. The confluence makes for a sound like if Beirut took their indie-intensity down a few notches and mixed in a laid-back Americana influence.
'The Hunter' showcases a calm, textural banjo intertwined with beautiful pedal steel empathizing with the mind of the hunting man, whatever game it is he may be after. The delicate portrait is a standout of the album. 'Learning and Forgetting' spins an aching yarn of figuring things out and then losing the path again with french horn scoring the cycle of triumph and failure. The harmonica-led 'Clara June' tells the tale of the life of a country belle finding her way in the world. Little packages of wisdom and encouragement are peppered throughout.
Peninsula takes on a McCartneyesque narrative, bustling with different characters chasing their dreams and coming to terms with their shortcomings. The characters are our own traits personified. In getting to know the cast of personalities within the town, we get to know ourselves and we get to sit back on the porch with our different sides and commiserate under the sunset.