Magnetic Morning: A.M.

Photo: Christy Bush

Swervedriver's Adam Franklin and Interpol's Sam Fogarino create a record that will appeal to the subconscious, while sometimes confusing the conscious.

Magnetic Morning


Contributors: Adam Franklin, Sam Fogarino, Jimmy LaValle
Label: DH
US Release Date: 2009-01-27
UK Release Date: Available as import

Magnetic Morning's A.M. is, yes, a record that does sound best early in the morning. Put it on as dawn is breaking and it is a soundtrack to darkness slowly lifting away, small creatures beginning their own day, and coffee percolating. It's the sound of those moments when you have just awoken and have begun your routine, but your brain is still living in its dream world.

Magnetic Morning is the songwriting duo of Swervedriver's Adam Franklin and Interpol's Sam Fogarino, joined by Jimmy LaValle (The Album Leaf), Josh Stoddard (The Still Out), and F. A. Blasco. Adam Franklin brings the most compelling ingredient to the table: his voice. Possessing one of the best and most beautiful (while still sounding gruff and pissed-off half the time) voices in rock, Franklin can manipulate any listener into a full forty-five minute bliss-out session. He's also been intuitive enough in his career to consistently surround that voice with heavy, though not necessarily myriad, instrumentation. Even when it's just a keyboard line being played behind him, it sounds as if it's anchored at the bottom of the ocean, and that voice is trying to lift it up.

AM continues that tradition of precise, thoughtful arrangement. The band, including Franklin (who plays guitar, keyboards, and bass besides singing), sounds like it has been together for a decade. There's a professionalism that is energizing rather than rote. Layers are constructed and then deconstructed, sometimes quickly. A synthesizer makes its way into a small portion of "No Direction", sounding for a split second like Kevin Shields has entered the building, then disappears behind the guitar and drums, leaving a wisp of smoky memory. A guitar languidly flutters on "At a Crossroads, Passive" and it underscores a desperate quality in the lyrics: "I walk to the ends of the earth / For what it's worth / But it never ends".

What holds AM back from being a great record is it's lack of reconciliation with what it wants to be. It's atmospheric but yet it seems to want to be song-driven, perhaps even epically so. Because it never settles down in either camp, and also doesn't make one big push towards the grandiose, it all sounds, well, a little hazy. It's telling that the standout tune is a cover (Kraftwerk's "Autobahn", handily translated from the German) and the best moments come from within songs, rather than the whole of a song itself. It's slightly jarring. Magnetic Morning will start with a lilting melody and Franklin's croon floating by like a soft prayer, break into a fairly strong chorus, pull back into a lull, and slowly fade out. It's as if the band didn't have enough intention.

Which is why A.M. works best in the subconscious. As a record for those in-between moments, when your brain isn't quite connecting with anything, it has merit. Listening to the first and last thirty seconds prove the point. The opening track, "Spring Unseen", sounds like a beginning was written, then scrapped. The closing track, "Athens 5", chooses to stop rather than truly end. Perhaps once Magnetic Morning figures out where they want to be, what the listener should expect is something more than a pleasant trip with some great moments, which is what this is now. Maybe they'll get a record that appeals to all the waking world as well.





The Top 20 Punk Protest Songs for July 4th

As punk music history verifies, American citizenry are not all shiny, happy people. These 20 songs reflect the other side of patriotism -- free speech brandished by the brave and uncouth.


90 Years on 'Olivia' Remains a Classic of Lesbian Literature

It's good that we have our happy LGBTQ stories today, but it's also important to appreciate and understand the daunting depths of feeling that a love repressed can produce. In Dorothy Strachey's case, it produced the masterful Olivia.


Indie Rocker Alpha Cat Presents 'Live at Vox Pop' (album stream)

A raw live set from Brooklyn in the summer of 2005 found Alpha Cat returning to the stage after personal tumult. Sales benefit organizations seeking to end discrimination toward those seeking help with mental health issues.

Love in the Time of Coronavirus

‘The Avengers’ Offer a Lesson for Our Time of COVID-19

Whereas the heroes in Avengers: Endgame stew for five years, our grief has barely taken us to the after-credit sequence. Someone page Captain Marvel, please.


Between the Grooves of Nirvana's 'Nevermind'

Our writers undertake a track-by-track analysis of the most celebrated album of the 1990s: Nirvana's Nevermind. From the surprise hit that brought grunge to the masses, to the hidden cacophonous noise-fest that may not even be on your copy of the record, it's all here.


Deeper Graves Arrives via 'Open Roads' (album stream)

Chrome Waves, ex-Nachtmystium man Jeff Wilson offers up solo debut, Open Roads, featuring dark and remarkable sounds in tune with Sisters of Mercy and Bauhaus.

Featured: Top of Home Page

The 50 Best Albums of 2020 So Far

Even in the coronavirus-shortened record release schedule of 2020, the year has offered a mountainous feast of sublime music. The 50 best albums of 2020 so far are an eclectic and increasingly "woke" bunch.


First Tragedy, Then Farce, Then What?

Riffing off Marx's riff on Hegel on history, art historian and critic Hal Foster contemplates political culture and cultural politics in the age of Donald Trump in What Comes After Farce?


HAIM Create Their Best Album with 'Women in Music Pt. III'

On Women in Music Pt. III, HAIM are done pretending and ready to be themselves. By learning to embrace the power in their weakest points, the group have created their best work to date.


Amnesia Scanner's 'Tearless' Aesthetically Maps the Failing Anthropocene

Amnesia Scanner's Tearless aesthetically maps the failing Anthropocene through its globally connected features and experimental mesh of deconstructed club, reggaeton, and metalcore.


How Lasting Is the Legacy of the Live 8 Charity Concert?

A voyage to the bottom of a T-shirt drawer prompts a look back at a major event in the history of celebrity charity concerts, 2005's Live 8, Philadelphia.


Jessie Ware Embraces Her Club Culture Roots on Rapturous 'What's Your Pleasure?'

British diva Jessie Ware cooks up a glittery collection of hedonistic disco tracks and delivers one of the year's best records with What's Your Pleasure.

Collapse Expand Reviews

Collapse Expand Features
PM Picks
Collapse Expand Pm Picks

© 1999-2020 All rights reserved.
PopMatters is wholly independent, women-owned and operated.