The only people in the music business successfully marketing sounds like the once fervently hyped Magic Numbers'-- that is, unassumingly sentimental folk-pop even an exhausted Baby Boomer could love-- are in the coffee business. Almost as remarkable as the songs on the Magic Numbers' self-titled 2005 debut was their indifference to fashion, both underground and mainstream.
More than eight months after the UK edition hit well-stocked import aisles, this slimmed-down domestic release of Those the Brokes won't bring commercial success to the band any more readily. At least, not unless the sort of people who don't usually seek out new music somehow discover the disc's best tracks. If they do, they'll hear several solid-to-excellent songs that extend the rootsy trajectory of the Magic Numbers' fine first outing, making up in winsome intensity what they lack as far as edginess or sex appeal.
First UK single "Take a Chance" encourages us to risk our pride for love. The burnished harmonies of the group's two sibling pairs-- Trinidad natives Romeo and Michele Stodart along with London-born duo Angela and Sean Gannon-- make it easy to overlook any risks the cheery power-pop arrangement declines to take itself. The video for second single "This Is a Song" shows the band playing to a slowly growing assemblage of cross-legged young people, a real sleeper hit. Despite the apparent obviousness of the title, this is a song against itself-- as broken-hearted as it is upbeat and catchy. ("Don't wanna hear it," comes a backing vocal.) The questioning "Let Somebody In" and comparatively muscular "You Never Had It" each glide by on the kind of inchoate magic that in more credulous days used to be called "soul".
Regardless, The Magic Numbers are a hugely talented band that deserve better than the treatment they've received from the music industry and the press. If music has been left to the coffee houses then so be it. I'll take Starbucks over Hot Topic any day.