At first listen, Before the Waves is a classic summer album. The driving synth pads, overdriven bass, and catchy hooks make you want to jump out of bed, sprint to the beach, and dive into the waves. And after recent summer festivals and many more to come, it’s hard not to listen to Magic Man without picturing a vast expanse of fans crowd-surfing and dancing for hours.

Magic Man have come a long way since their formation as a lo-fi, indie rock band. Back in 2010, Magic Man consisted of just two friends, Alex and Sam, who wrote the first songs while WOOFing at organic farms in France. (There, they met a young French magician who gave them their namesake). In the past couple years, as Magic Man has grown to become a five-piece rock band, they have striven to get “away from the chiller electronic stuff.”

Whereas their older music wandered and drifted, their newest album hits you full force. They’ve inherited all the standard indie pop elements—the energy, the synthesizers, the strong vocals—all while maintaining a sound that is uniquely their own. In just the first few seconds of the blissfully fast-paced opener, “Texas,” you can feel the synths pushing forward aggressively with the same energy as their fans pushing to get closer to the stage.

Before the Waves is a cohesive album, but at the cost of diversity. Magic Man have almost developed a formula for their songs. In the beginning of most songs, we hear rhythmic synths foreshadowing the rhythm of the chorus. As the rhythm changes, a verse reveals a story with lovesick words. We then hear a vibrant chorus pulsing through, with lyrics that have something to do with fantasies, feeling a spark, or the fear that the magical burst of sunshine might just fade away.

For all the energetic songs, there isn’t a single downer. That magical burst of sunshine never does quite fade away. “Paris” is one of the closest songs we get, where the synths dance tentatively as the vocalist offers us a blissful plea for help in the chorus: “Fantasy, it’s taking over like a disease / Pull me out of this, I can’t breath.”

The final song, “It All Starts Here,” a wave-your-lighter-in-the-air anthem, is perhaps the best song on the album. It makes the album feel complete. It also explains why the songs are so consistently energetic; “I’ve got a restless heart / burning up inside my bones.” The build-up of “It All Starts Here” is phenomenal. And it’s empowering, even inspiring, for the final song on a thoroughly vital album to be about beginnings.

When listening to the album, part of me wishes Magic Man would vary their instrumentation more. Part of me wishes they would expand their lyrical content beyond that magical, blissful night. Part of me wishes that some songs would reveal the aftermath of the fantasies, the spark actually fading away, or maybe even a cold rush of water to pull us out of the fantasy. But there’s none of that. Before the Waves thrives in a classic indie-pop space: a portrait of the best parts of youthful bliss. We hear all about the sun and the sparks, and the instrumentation reflects this energy. But we never hear someone actually hit the water. The album’s title rings true; with all its impeccable production, the album offers us a perfect portrait of a youthful sprint to the water, just before hitting the waves.

Album Review: Magic Man - Before the Waves
  • Lively, energetic, engaging
  • Unique and consistent sound
  • Cohesive
  • Not enough variance
  • Songs are a bit formulaic
8.3Overall Score

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