10.5 on a scale of 10.5

The Magician - Who Will Cut Your Grass When I'm Gone?
Nathan Moes, a.k.a. the Magician, runs the risk of coming off as a little gimmicky. He has performed magic tricks on stage, and his debut EP is littered with allusions to other artists, from the Unicorns-referencing title (Who Will Cut Your Grass when I’m Gone?) to the wonky “Smoke on the Water” riffing at the end of “Introducing.” But all the gimmicks in the world can’t distract from the fact that the EP’s seven songs are packed with indelible pop hooks and witty, captivating lyrics,

“NJ V. NJM” features a fuzzy bassline working around an ominous minor key progression, its blippy keyboards shedding light on 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 remains resolutely deadpan. But surely he must be kidding…right?

mp3: “NJ V. NJM”

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 a joyously 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.

The Magician has recently recruited a backing band, the Gates and Love, and the outfit is planning on entering the studio soon to record a full-length. In the meantime, check out three of the songs from Who Will Cut Your Grass When I’m Gone? here.
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