Issue 12  •  Spring 2013

Magnetic Island: Out at Sea

Written by Brady Walker
 Active Image Out at Sea, the first EP from the loose outfit Magnetic Island, is stylistically divided between the first two tracks and the latter two, probably because of its malleable cast. The first half is droning, driving, jammy, and without much discernible lyrical content, which seems to be the point. The second half is cleaner and maintains some song structure, leaving what must be a different singer as the focus.

Out at Sea, the first EP from the loose outfit Magnetic Island, is stylistically divided between the first two tracks and the latter two, probably because of its malleable cast. The first half is droning, driving, jammy, and without much discernible lyrical content, which seems to be the point. The second half is cleaner and maintains some song structure, leaving what must be a different singer as the focus.

The opener, “End in Bender,” starts with the driving drums and steady, minimalist guitar of a U2 anthem sans Bono, whose voice has been replaced with a less bombastic one, here relegated to a chorus of “Ohs.” The song dips into a mellow reprise just long enough for the balls-out jamming to be doubly powerful the second time around, and it refuses to let up until it slows to its final stop.

“Sung (Not Said)” picks up where “End” left off, the vocals now more active, but layered and reverbed to a pleasant hum that seems to echo from the same cave as the rest of the band.

Next we find a seemingly different Magnetic Island, one less dreamlike, more daydreamy. “Summer Phase” is a solid garage pop song of lost love. Between the title and the lyrics (“It doesn't matter how you broke my heart / It doesn't matter how it fell apart / All I know is this feeling / Where'd it all go wrong?”) the song brings to mind a mopey recent high school grad wasting his summer yearning and listening to Dinosaur Jr. The next and final song (if you don’t count the “Summer Phase” alternate mix) “Let it Lie,” plays in the same court of jangly garage pop, not really veering off the expected path, but doing a good job of what it’s meant to do.

It’s hard to say if Magnetic Island had a definite idea about Out at Sea when they compiled these representative tracks, though the title implies that their stylistic indecisiveness shouldn’t come as a surprise. What it does is leave me wondering if they’ll come back to land with some great vision—which, citing just their musicianship, would not at all surprise me—or just stay out there, floating.

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