Being the media whores that we are, we normally wait until we receive a promo copy before reviewing music but Londonist was so entranced at The Magic Numbers gig last week that we found ourselves fighting our way to the merchandise stall to buy Hymn For Her, The Magic Numbers' first release for Heavenly.
As befits a label like Heavenly, the single is released on 7" vinyl only (gratifyingly it is decent weight vinyl) which can be bought at certain specialist local independent stores or the Borderline shows (next and final date is 7th December: it's sold out but if you can get a ticket off a tout, something we would never normally advocate, it's worth it).
Make the effort to get a copy of Hymn For Her, it's worth it. Even if you don't like the single (and if you don't, you have no heart or soul) Londonist is willing to bet the single will be worth a lot when The Magic Numbers hit the big time. We witnessed several people buying multiple copies at the gig.
Since we bought Hymn For Her, it has been literally stuck on our turntable. And we really do mean 'literally' in its proper sense: the hole cut in the middle of the single is a smidgen too tight. Having forced it onto the turntable, it's a major effort to get the record back off to flip it over to the other side but it would have been remiss of us not to review both sides of a double-A single.
Starting with the AA-side then, Oh Sister's minor-key opening and high vocals are reminscent of Mercury Rev in an atmospheric mood before resolving into the sweetness of the chorus. There's a strong structure here, with the trumpet motif reflected throughout the song and also top-and-tailing it. Often songs that alternate between major and minor can sound like two different songs cobbled together but there's a unity here which shows The Magic Numbers clearly have a firm mastery of the song-writing arts. Oh Sister has a lovely, lazy, jazzy kind of feeling to it, perfect with a whisky nightcap.
Hymn For Her has a more rhapsodic vibe to it, opening with acoustic guitar and vocals, not unlike Simon and Garfunkel at their gentlest. The song builds up with a strummed guitar introducing the next section of the song, with its glockenspiel (or is it xylophone?) tinkling underlying the heart-rending lyrics: Oh, my lover, won't you get away? Love or loathe I need to feel again.
Just before you take the lightness of touch for granted, the song builds up further, culminating in the electric guitars kicking in and truly affecting vocal harmonies which reminded us of Tanya Donelly at her best, before resolving with a plaintive acoustic ending.
The lyrics to Hymn For Her are enough to make our knees wobble, the melodies brings tears to our eyes, and the vocal delivery pushes us over the edge. We're wary of over-hyping but on the basis of this single and what we've seen so far, if The Magic Numbers don't deliver a great album next year, we'll eat our cats.