New Magnetic Wonder – The Apples in Stereo
Simian/Elephant 6/Yep Roc
The elephant never forgets, or so the saying goes. After taking in New Magnetic Wonder, the Apples in Stereo’s first studio effort since 2002’s Velocity of Sound, there’s more than enough reason to believe these indie popsmiths the last remaining group of the original Elephant 6 Collective haven’t forgot how to craft one heck of a sunny record.
Wonder, the apple no pun intended in the eye of Elijah Wood, marks the first official release of the ex-hobbit’s label, Simian Records. These 14 songs, linked together in suite formation by 12 rather abstract segues, draw from the same energy that inspired the Beatles’ vocal harmonies on “Paperback Writer” and every pre-Pet Sounds album Brian Wilson ever even thought of composing. Lead vocalist/guitarist/Apples commander-in-chief Robert Schneider and his mates ex-Olivia Tremor Control and Neutral Milk Hotel members, Bill Doss and Jeff Magnum respectively, to name a few supply just the right amount of 60s-popness. “Energy,” a bit of novelist James Redfield’s The Celestine Prophecy (“And the world is made of energy/And there’s a light inside of you/And there’s a light inside of me”) slightly pushes this boundary. “Sun is Out” begins like something off an Elliott Smith basement tape: dark-sounding and about as low-fi as low-fi gets. But, sure enough, Schneider and company keep pace, erupting into a bright, harmonic coda. Aside from bizarre interludes (the Vocoder-happy mantra, “Joanie Don’t U Worry” and the menacing circus vibe of “Non-Pythagorean Composition 1”), the Apples seem content with being merry.
This 53-minute LP is chock full of ambition, however. Take for instance the four-part opus, “Beautiful Machine.” During its two-and-a-half minutes, the former half, paired as one track, cruises along a surface of twinkling, Applesesque chord progressions. The latter gives way to swirling, atmospheric synths beneath Schneider’s melodic chorus line. No wonder this tune closes things out it’s the gracefully realized closing this gracefully realized record needed.
New Magnetic Wonder may indeed be the Apples’ return to form, but there’s a sense here they never left at all.