10.5 on a scale of 10.5

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Nathan Moes, a.k.a. the Magician, runs the risk of coming off as a little gimmicky. As well as performing magic tricks on stage, he litters his music with allusions to other artists, from the Unicorns-referencing title of his album (Who Will Cut Your Grass When I’m Gone) to the wonky “Smoke on the Water” riffing of its opening track (“Introducing”). But all the gimmicks in the world can’t distract from the fact that the Magician’s seven-track debut EP is chock-full of indelible pop hooks and witty, captivating lyrics.

“NJ v. NJM” features a fuzzy bassline working around an ominous minor key progression, its blippy keyboards making sense of the titular Unicorns reference (it sounds distinctly similar to “Tuff Ghost”). The lyrics draw from T.I.’s “What You Know,” and its hilarious appropriation of hip-hop slang (“With my kicks, with my slacks, with my cardigan / Yeah, I’m a 10.5 on a scale of 10.5″) comes off about as cool as Weird Al‘s “White & Nerdy.” The best part about Moes’s humour is that it’s unclear to what extent he’s in on the joke; no matter how silly the lyrics get, his delivery is remains resolutely deadpan. But surely he must be kidding…right?

Like his beloved Unicorns, the Magician has a knack for tossing off a moment of pop perfection without seeming to realize it. “Indicator Stop Bath” begins as a focused, upbeat pop song, but after barely a minute it falls apart, the drums taper off, and the piano is left to noodle around on a chord progression for nearly two minutes of daydream sublimity. “Ant/Whale/You & Me” contains an unfathomably catchy bridge, with triumphant piano flourishes and a poignant, rising melody. Placed after the first verse, you wait for the rest of the song hoping it will return; it never does, meaning you’ll have no choice but to listen to the song again.

While you’re at it, better re-listen to the entire EP.

Listen to five of the album’s seven tracks at the Magician’s MySpace (only the first and last are missing). The album isn’t available in stores, but it can be ordered through the website.
 
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