REVIEW: Here We Go Magic - Be Small

Kelly Kirwan

“Be small, just as you are, in the calm of your sweet surrender…”

Luke Temple’s soft vocals drift over the hazy, high-rising synth of his album’s titular track, "Be Small." It’s a fitting description for the indie outfit, Here We Go Magic, in their present whittled-down form. In 2012, the Brooklyn band was a five-piece collective, whose biggest LP (A Different Ship) was produced by the Radiohead-affiliated Nigel Goodrich. Now, after three years of radio silence, Here We Go Magic has returned as a duo consisting of the aforementioned frontman Luke Temple and multi-instrumentalist Michael Bloch. Self-produced in their base camp (and indie-rock haven) Brooklyn, the album is a flurry of energetic beats that never veer into riotous frenzy. Instead, Be Small has a kind of contradictory effect, lulling you in gently without putting you to sleep.

Picture a crowd of Deadheads just feeling it—eyes closed and swaying, connected to the music but somehow adrift in their own little reverie (perhaps their very own “sweet surrender”). Be Small has that kind of vibe, but more influenced by the progressive rock and shimmer pop of the '90s. In fact, the LP was mainly motivated by the past works of bigwigs like Brian Eno and John Cale—specifically their musical love child, Wrong Way Up—and Robert Wyatt’s Shleep.

Temple and Bloch absorbed that steadfast experimentation and ethereal vocals to fill in each of their eleven tracks. Or as their label, Secretly Canadian, put it, “…the songs seem to float just above us…always, always, always, with a heavy focus on groove.” Sure, at times the “grooves” feel a little cluttered, and tracks like “Falling” end with all the abruptness of a book whose last page was torn out, but not in a way that would deter you from the next song on deck.

Because actually, "Falling" stands as one of my album favorites, blunt ending and all (and, in its defense, the opening lyric forebodes the drop-off to come: “I must believe your heartbeat could pull the rug out from an upright man”). It’s a magnetically upbeat track, a conjunction of steady drums and fuzz-filled synth and guitar strings. It also points to a recurring theme of Be Small, with Temple coaxing, “If you feel the free fall of surrender / That’s your building coming down." The kind of “surrender” HWGM seem to be pushing is to let go and live in the moment. As Temple said in an interview with Noisey, their album is a “commentary on opulence, the destructive nature of greed.” In that way their mode of production matches their ethos, stripping it down to the essentials.

Another song worth a mention is "Girls In The Early Morning," a slower, bittersweet track describing “girls in the midst of bedlam” navigating an unnamed cityscape. There’s something beautiful about the song’s simplicity, which allows Temple’s low-key vocals to take center stage. It’s a song that’s “small” in the way the album intended—saying more with less.