[9 February 2010]
Band names hardly come more twee than Cuddle Magic, but then again, few bands sound as genuinely eager to conform to twee-pop conventions as this expansive Brooklyn/Philadelphia ensemble. Its second album, Picture, could have been constructed straight from a twee checklist: an impressive roster of instruments (ranging from any number of strings, horns, keyboards, banjos, and guitars), mingling with unaffected male/female vocals, cutesy lyrics (opener “The Packaging” is a song addressed to a bottle of syrup), and generally listless melodies. It is the latter issue that generally sinks so many entries in this genre, so it is a pleasant surprise when Cuddle Magic manages to construct a memorable tune out of these elements, as it does occasionally here, like on the swaying, heartfelt “Expectations” or in the eerie harmonies that blanket “Anyone”. Unfortunately, for the most part, the band comes off as far more interested in indulging in the instrumental excesses that clog most of Picture‘s longer tracks, like the bloated ten-minute finale “Brimstone Overture” or the interminable quasi-Latin jazz show-off that links the mid-album song pair of “In So Far” and “Paris/Happydent”, effectively finding the band crossing the line from cuddly to snoozy.