From beginning to end the new Ep, by Magazine Gap, entitled “Calling Card” distills what makes this groups’ music flow as well as it does. For sure they have a well-oiled sound that is distinctive and instantly recognizable. Yet it’s a style that can adapt itself to different variations very easily. The focus of this particular EP is very much on the rhythmic groove and clean orchestration.
The highly melodic and well-constructed songwriting is of course very well suited to this. And everything from the rhythm section to the arrangements is extremely strong and well done. This is superb, mildly lyrically nostalgic, and reflective funky pop-soul at its finest.
Magazine Gap shames many of their peers, and almost all their colleagues, with this simple 4-track set-list, and totally unique vocals. Unlike the diluted and homogenized pap that parades as pop music today, Magazine Gap is the real deal. Once upon a time the barrier to entry into the music world was talent, not just being able to place your track on iTunes or CdBaby.
It is all about the vocals, the instruments and the songs. Qualitatively, Magazine Gap seems to hail from that time. Moreover they have a straightforward and uncomplicated formula provided by producer-drummer Brian McCook, augmented by the dexterity of dynamic pianist Alex Ho, and combined with the intelligent lyrics, electric guitar and distinctive soulful voice of James Keen – the epitome of less is more!
The focus throughout this EP is naturally on James Keen’s silky voice which is in fine fettle; his natural sweetness augmented with a wide range and a sense of timing that allows him to cruise through songs before adding intermittent bursts of urgency and dynamism.
Alex Ho textures, teases and aggrandizes the melodies with shimmering keys that thrust and pull, claws, throws and flicks its way through each bar. His playing is crisp and clean, giving the songs their melodic and rhythmic momentum.
Last, but certainly not least, Brian McCook’s drumming is what keeps these songs pointing in the right direction, beat after beat, and arriving to their natural conclusion perfectly on time.
You can marvel at all of these musical delicacies right from the very first track, “Snakes & Ladders”, which is a rush of adrenaline-pumping urgency. But that was just the warm-up track, because when “Body Language” kicks in, the groove built into the core of this band, breaks totally free.
You’ll be hard-pressed to keep still while this tune is blaring through the speaker system. “What’s That About?” sees Magazine Gap capable of fully fleshing out a song with a luxurious arrangement that includes horns.
The result is impressive indeed, and shows that the band has ample room to expand and elaborate on their sound in future. The title track, “Calling Card”, again uses a low-end, piano-driven, barebones funky beat,embellished with a live string arrangement and the superlative lead vocals courtesy of James Keen.
In essence, Magazine Gap is three players – Alex, James and Brian, who attractively deal out three key elements – melody, groove and rhythm. And which can all be summed up with only one word – Magnificent! How long before they get a major record deal? With the release of “Calling Card”, I think all betting has now been definitely closed.
MORE ABOUT: Magazine Gap is a British rock band from London that has toured extensively around their home country, including headline performances in 13 major cities around the UK, as well as across to Ireland. They’ve also done shows across the United States and subsequently toured the Far East with shows in Japan, Singapore and Hong Kong. To date the band have released the album, “Light & Shade” – released online as two EPs (“Silver Lining” and “It’s All Good”) – with 12 songs recorded in major studios in London, New York, Chicago, Houston, New Orleans, Pasadena and Hollywood. They’ve also released their “World Tour EP”, with 6 live recordings from six different cities on three separate continents.