Like Pioneers deliver one of the year's most exciting sophomore efforts with the brilliant Oh, Magic.
Oh, Magic may only run for slightly over half an hour, but it's one of the most exhilarating half hours and change you're likely to hear this year. Like Pioneers have only been rocketing up since the release of their stellar debut Piecemeal, which peddled a slightly less refined version of the skewed powerpop they have built to near-perfection with Oh, Magic. Between the two records the bands kept busy, touring, writing, and having the distinct honor of being the first ever band to play the Onion's AV Fest in Chicago. Every small peak at the new material was the perfect incentive for high expectations and Like Pioneers crush it out of the park with their latest, to the extent of actually surprising with how far they surpassed expectations.
Once the opening track, "Champion", gets going the band holds that accelerator in place and doesn't let up an inch over the course of Oh, Magic. Make no mistake, this album's an adrenaline rush of infectious energy complemented by outstanding songwriting. In a lot of cases buzz surrounding certain bands can be unjustified. In the case of Like Pioneers all of the hype seems lackluster. There should have been a much bigger press wave than what Piecemeal got, and the band seems ready to eliminate most of that slack with Oh, Magic. "Champion" makes their intentions clear from the get-go and holds to them admirably.
"All Wrapped", the record's second track, is another blast of skewed sugar-rush powerpop-inflected rock n' roll. Every instrument (spare the drums) seems to have the perfect amount of distortion and crunch that provides moments that sound absolutely huge when they all come together at once, which is rare. A good reference point for the kind of music that Oh, Magic excels in is a slightly more restrained take on Tokyo Police Club's debut EP A Lesson in Crime. However, where A Lesson in Crime was full of brief bursts of songs that were vintage punk in approach, Oh, Magic takes the essence of those songs and extends them masterfully over three, four, five and six minute songs, and never once loses momentum in doing so.
There isn't really a beginning, middle or end to Oh, Magic. Everything flows together so seamlessly that it's a difficult album to dissect into small pieces. Even talking about a single song seems inadequate, because Oh, Magic seems as if it was designed as a whole. The immediacy of both the record and the songs themselves only extend that difficulty. Highlights are non-existent, but there are notable moments. For example, there is the point when one of the vocalist's similarity to both James Mercer and Joseph D'Agostino (Cymbals Eat Guitars), in both delivery and voice, becomes extremely apparent on "Tell 'Em Ghost" or the moment in "Requiem for Some Band" where you realize how ridiculously superb the lyrics through the whole affair are. There's also the moment you realize you're more than halfway through a really great record and are already preparing to re-listen to it.
Oh, Magic is near-perfect from start to finish and promises to be a huge launching platform for Like Pioneers. It is more than likely to drastically increase their fan-base. All throughout the record Like Pioneers don't waste a single moment and infuse their songs with so much passionate conviction, without seeming overly earnest, that it'd be hard not to be won over. While Oh, Magic may not be an outright masterpiece, it's as close as a band like this is ever going to get. For even casual fans of the rock n' roll, alternative or powerpop genres, this is a must-buy. Piecemeal was Like Pioneers' starting line stance and Oh, Magic is their sudden explosion out of the gate. Blink and you might miss it, so do yourself a favor... don't blink.