EFTERKLANG – Magic Chairs

For anyone who’s grown tired of múm’s breathtaking devotion to inconsistency, the Danish collective Efterklang have been a dependable antidote for several years. Like múm, Efterklang delight in mixing minimalist glitchy beats with a more natural instrumentation, creating songs that are brooding with energy and wonder. Unlike múm, Efterklang haven’t continually switched gears into a sea of weird failures (Summer Make Good and last year’s Sing Along To Songs You Don’t Know being the most prominent of múm’s departures from their norm). No, Efterklang have always been dependable, and they’ve always excelled at keeping their sound fresh with essentially the same ingredients. So it was a bit of a surprise for me to listen to Magic Chairs, an album that’s certainly a departure, and certainly not a failure – it’s a showcase of a band demonstrating pop sensibilities that we didn’t even know they had.

The differences between Magic Chairs and Parades (the band’s last studio album) are quite stark. Parades was a halcyon collection of songs that were absolutely haunting despite being fragile and lucid in form. “Fragile” and “lucid” are two words that do not describe Magic Chairs, in form or otherwise. The music here is more akin to Grizzly Bear’s latest album; it’s got that same sort of baroque, classic feel to it, but Magic Chairs is livelier somehow. Songs like Full Moon and Mirror Mirror carry in them an unhinged joy that’s absent in most of Vecktimest. Now, Magic Chairs isn’t about to rival any of The Polyphonic Spree albums any time soon, but it’s uplifting and resonant in a way that their past work wasn’t. I mentioned earlier that Parades was a fragile album, and it is, and Magic Chairs is its opposite – tenacious, full of glee and vigor.

The best compliment I could possibly pay to Magic Chairs is this: I would not be saddened if this was the direction that the band took for the remainder of their career. In a total contrast to múm, Efterklang have gone off in a direction that suits them well – and the music created by it speaks for itself; they didn’t marginalize themselves, as múm have, or have turned their sound into a ghastly form bordering on self-parody (“self-parody” being the first words that came to mind when I first heard Sing Along To Songs You Don’t Know). No, Efterklang have arrived at this point naturally – and I hope they stick around.

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