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Review:: Scan The Blue | exmagician

There’s nothing to make you feel so powerless as complaining about the weather.

I really want it to be spring. It seemed like it would be a few times already, when the temperature and the sun have collaborated together to make a March day lovely, once or twice. And then, to my utter dismay, we’re back to the bite of winter.

It’s not that I don’t like winter. Winter can be great. And I realize that hoping for an early spring feels like hoping for global warming, which much smarter people than I say will doom us all. But in this early April, I am just so ready to sit on my porch, and ride my bike, and look up at the expanse of blue without having to wear a jacket, because for the past few days, I’ve been listening to exmagician’s excellent debut album, Scan The Blue, and dammit I just want to be outside all the time.

Scan The Blue lives up to its name. It’s excellent music for looking to the clear sky and
contemplating…something. It also lives up to the band’s debut EP from November, Kiss That Wealth Goodbye, which left me very excited for this one.

Three of that release’s four songs show up here, and for better or for worse, they’re still my favorite songs on the record. “Kiss That Wealth Goodbye” opens the album with a fuzzy arena-rock guitar squawk that sounds like a garage and a beach at the same time. A high-pitched and warm synth texture anchors the swirly sound of “Place Your Bets,” joining in with some sugary “oohs” and a reverby guitar line to create a relaxed driving sound. “Smile To The Gallery” brings the band down-tempo, sprawling out on the grass and looking up.

But of course the album is more than a rehashing of the things that got me excited about them in the first place. It’s an expansion of their sound, with songs of surprisingly varied tone. The title track closes out the album on an ethereal drone, a reverb heavy mix of echo-y vocals and full instrumentation that blends together like cirrus clouds. “Bend With The Wind” uses jangly rhythm guitars, dreamy synths, and whimsical pop vocals to create an excellent version of what Animal Collective might sound like if they calmed down with the weirdness and acted like human beings for a whole record.

Normally I like the weirdness. In a lot of cases, I might complain about the way that this album is probably the most straightforward “psychedelic” music I could imagine. The Doors of Perception remain open just a crack, with only the slight hint of otherworldly madness able to pass through. Any hint of edginess is drowned over the fuzzy, dream-like production and the many reverberating instruments.

But Scan The Blue isn’t an album that lives on its edges. It lives in the vast expanse of comfortable space in between. It’s warm and inviting, and it keeps you grinning. It is an
album that maintains its consistent feeling of joy and sunny days even as the songs change, blending together into a whole that transcends its parts.

It’s still not sunny or warm where I live. But I have to go outside, to enjoy the barest hints of spring and the spots of sunlight peeking through inconsistent cloud cover. It’s April, and according to my calendar, spring is here. I’ve got Scan The Blue. I’m ready.

Release date: March 25, 2016
Run time: ~45 minutes
Rating: 4/5

exmagician

Track listing:
1. Kiss That Wealth Goodbye
2. Bend With The Wind
3. Place Your Bets
4. Desperado
5. Feet Don’t Fail
6. Job Done
7. Smile To The Gallery
8. Plan Retrieval
9. The Rot Sets In
10. Wild Eyes
11. Scan The Blue

Written by Jon Hecht

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