Thursday 24 September 2015

The Magic Beans - Anything You Can Dream

Rosehill GBPER0112 

The Magic Beans trade in transformation. That is, they distill the essence of unlikely pop songs with just a supple string bass (Matt Owens, the best in the business) and lyrical acoustic guitar (the tasteful Ulrich Elbracht). Matt and Uli split the musical roles, with Matt frequently taking the melodic lead, and Uli offering clean, understated lines. The pair interweave seamlessly, and, most important of all, leave lots of room for singer Zoe Kyoti. In this environment, Zoe blossoms like an exotic bloom, and is relaxed, confident, and, not to put too fine a point on it, divine. 

The Beans’ choice of material is consistently adventurous. I like the feminised ‘This Town Ain’t Big Enough for the Both of Us’ with flamenco interlude, and ’Itchycoo Park’ is reinvented as a blissful picnic. In these settings you can hear all the words, and the bonkers brilliance of ‘This Town’ came as a revelation to me. I caught the bit about the ducks for the first time in ‘Itchycoo Park’. ‘Be My Baby’, meanwhile, is the epitome of idealised teen romance, and is simply irresistible. 

The likability extends to a slew of drug songs, most notably ‘Cocaine Lil’, which belongs to the ‘Cocaine Blues’ family of songs: the subject hasn’t received such a light and attractive treatment since the heyday of Memphis Jug Band. I include ‘Waterfall’ by The Stone Roses in this category – euphoria is a suspect commodity – and also ‘Trust in Me’, Kaa the python’s song of temptation to Mowgli in The Jungle Book.  

Gratifyingly, the originals by Kyoti don’t disgrace this company: ‘Anything You Dream’ establishes the album’s mood (tripping down rabbit holes already); ‘Don’t Spend Your Love on Me’ provides an object lesson in how to put down amorous advances whilst remaining serenely seductive, and ‘Palolem Bay’ is the deepest and most emotionally complex song on offer here. 

The occasional jazz standard may slip through but always with justification. ‘Love is lovelier the second time around’ (‘The Second Time Around’) is a reasonable description of my feelings on receiving the second Magic Beans album a full seven years after the first, or it possibly arises from Matt Owens’ return to Manchester after a period in London 
(which partly explains the gap). ‘I’ll Be Seeing You’, the album closer, beats off stiff competition from Ella. By this time all resistance is impossible. The simple things are the best.  

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