Album review: The Magic Lantern ‘To The Islands’

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I wouldn’t say we fling around the word ‘masterpiece’ all that often here at Fortitude HQ, but, The Magic Lantern’s album ‘To The Islands’ comes pretty darn close. Its an exceptionally written piece of artistry from start to finish that somehow manages to defy genre despite sounding completely in tune with itself throughout.

The first notes on opening track ‘Holding Hands’ begin with The Magic Lantern – aka Jamie Doe – exquisitely singing opening line “I’m searching…”, so much so that it actually sent shivers down our spines. Jamie has this incredible tone to his voice that really is second to none, its filled with warmth and utterly gorgeous freckles of vibrato that will make the hairs on the back of your neck stand on end. In the background, mirroring Jamie wonderfully, are two soft, warm saxophones, almost echoing Jamie as he sings. Just stunning. The track then steps up a notch, but still in keeping with the low-key tone of the track, allowing Jamie’s voice to soar beautifully over the impressive instrumentation.

Next up is ‘Albatross’, which again showcases Jamie’s velvet-like vocal wonderfully. This track, along with the rest of the album, was written following a tumultuous journey to Jamie’s childhood home in Australia, after nearly 10 years away, and explores memory and hope in a world of near constant uncertainty. ‘Albatross’ is about hope during time and you can certainly feel that within the lighthearted musicianship throughout.

‘Between The World and Me’ feels instantly relatable right from the offset. Lyrics “where ever I look around, seems everyone’s worked it out, ashamed I still don’t know, what its all about” are surely words a whole number of people can relate to, making this song all the more poignant. Its slow, calm and delicate, which is how we all feel sometimes.

Following on is ‘Scattered Leaves’ -a personal favourite of ours on the album. Its begin similarly to the previous tracks with a gorgeous Spanish guitar twinkling in the background and a mesmerising flute underneath, all very calm and collected. And then, this absolute eruption of sound and colour comes into play, instantly transporting you to a Spanish island somewhere! If you’re not up and dancing by the end of this track, there’s something wrong with you, that’s all we’ll say.

Previous single ‘Lydia’ is truly breathtaking, capturing intimate limitless depths with vivid poetry and poignant, emotive balladry. Going back to basics, Jamie is simply joined by his intricate guitar picking skills and his beautiful sweeping vocals and that’s all it needs! No bells and whistles, just good old acoustics. Following on delightfully is the free-flowing ‘Tangled Chimes’, a song about the inevitability of all things passing. This track unfortunately gets slightly forgotten amongst everything else that is going on within the album, maybe because its a little bit repetitive, but its nonetheless an extremely impressive piece of music.

As the next track ‘Two Bells’ begins, it has a bit of an experimental / neo-classical feel to it. As punches of piano come into the fold, Jamie’s singings soars flawlessly. Then it somehow transitions into a spell of jazz, feeling delightfully majestic and moving.’Masks’ follows in a similar pattern, instantly reminding us of Nils Frahm, the music wouldn’t sound out of place in a Richard Curtis film either. It tells a story and you can feel yourself moving emotionally with the music as it progresses. Truly stunning.

‘Darling Day’ feels exactly like what it says on the tin. It instantly transports you into the beginnings of spring, feeling fresh and glowing brightly. This track has more of a jazz feel to it, as the cocktail of instruments go there own way wonderfully, whilst still sounding like a solid unit. Jamie once again excelling vocally as well of course.

Ending with ‘Re: Her’, an emotive love song to Jamie’s now wife and reminding us all that we can all have our happy ending. This is another one of Jamie’s more neo-classical pieces on the album, reminding of the Ludovico Einaudi’s chilling piano skills. Its beautifully simplistic, with no words necessary, just mesmerising piano notes creating all the emotion you need. The perfect ending to a truly astounding piece of work.

‘To The Islands’ is out now via Hectic Eclectic Records.

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