(4ad, January 2009)
Review by Hugh Lilly
The fourth full-length LP from this Danish four-piece—best described as The Postal Service meets The Polyphonic Spree—ditches the dark atmosphere of their previous albums in favour of a much lighter, more poppier sound but thankfully retains the classical and avant-garde influences for which they are known, if only on a few tracks. The band has worked with and opened for 4ad label mates Grizzly Bear and The National, and Magic Chairs is frequently reminiscent of recent albums by both those bands, but, overall, the record tends toward a plastic, defiantly radio-friendly sound. The opener “Modern Drift” builds from a fluttering, Philip Glass-esque piano melody to full-blown art-pop in five concise minutes.
“Harmonics” and the closer “National Tune,” which respectively blend smooth horns and lilting piano with quiet, lush string arrangements and steady, understated percussion, are reminiscent of local electronic musician/singer-songwriter SJD, while “The Soft Beating” has a solid, Coldplay-esque feel to it—all cascading piano and repeated chorus line accompanied replied to by two or three backing harmonies. “Scandinavian Love” features inventive use of strings accompanied by neat electro glitches, and “Mirror, Mirror” is inspired—both in name and underlying melody—by Arvo Pärt. Despite the pop appeal of its lyrics, Magic Chairs is a magnificently-furnished piece of work, as ornate and precise in its sound as the beautiful artwork adorning its cover.