About two weeks ago the long-awaited (well, at least I’ve been waiting for it for a long time) new album from Columbia, SC’s Magnetic Flowers was posted online somewhat quietly, and I’ve been absorbing it since then. This week marks a slightly noisier new release from another Columbia-based band, People Person. The one-two punch of this potent pair of local bands packs some serious potential and at the least shows the depth of talent and forward-thinking musicians in this sometimes backwards town.
Magnetic Flowers’ latest Old, Cold, Losing it is true to their densely elliptical, wordy and inspiring past work while building on that foundation with new sonic techniques. It’s almost not fair to compare the new songs with the band’s prior work since those earlier songs have lived in our ears locally for long enough to become sing-along anthems at their live shows, but I’ll just say that there are a few tunes here that will certainly rise to that status with time. “Dial Tone (…)” jumps out immediately with lines such as “I hope when I’m dead that my books will be read,” repeated with multiple voices and variations on the same theme like an indie-rock “Row, Row, Row Your Boat” singing round.
It’s on “Trout Fishing In America (If a Man Can Eat An Airplane)” where things start to get weird, as the spare synth-like guitar and keyboard figure blips and bleeps under singer Pat Funk relating a bleary-eyed, psychedelic dream of a story. Of what, I have no idea, but it’s compelling in its oddity.
“Whittle It (God Bless You Ernest Becker)” is another aural soundscape with voices used more like instruments in the mix, atop spare percussion and some theremin-like noises.
Just when you thought the band’s post-Replacements spunk had been subsumed by esoteric production values and highfalutin’ concept, “Dirty Grounds (Old, Cold)” rips out of the ether with a breakneck tempo and bastardized Simon & Garfunkel style “ba-da-da-da-da” on the quickly building choruses, until the breakdown collapses into lines that culminate, “I’m laughing now, because I finally remembered how…”
This one’s going to take a while to sink in fully, but the joy of discovery that has marked my consumption of previous Magnetic Flowers songs will no doubt repeat here, with the bonus that the production values are the best the band’s ever come up with, thanks to Jay Matheson at the Jam Room and a crisp, clear mastering from Kenny McWilliams at Archer Avenue.
People Person is fronted by the punk pixie persona of Jessica Oliver (also the drummer for Can’t Kids), someone I once described as Shirley Temple on acid. Her Goldilocks-style appearance is deceiving, however, as she can snarl and spit cutting couplets with ease. For much of the new album, Oliver tends more toward the sweeter-sounding side, indulging in fuzzy girl-group sounds that borrow from surf rock, the Ronettes, and the Pixies. Like another sonic signpost, Dinosaur Jr., there are melodies in the mayhem that will have you humming along to tunes such as “Portions For Fatties” or “I’m Slimy”, and the production is clean enough to finally hear what Oliver can do as a vocalist, which is quite a bit.
It’s the variety of sounds and textures that surprises the most. The knowing, sly technique of “It Bugs Me, It’s Nothing” melts into the multi-tracked vocals of “Up and Done It”, which boasts a Breeders-worthy bassline from Adam Cullum (Also a member of Magnetic Flowers and Can’t Kids), and then there’s the quiet paisley pop of “Frances”, like a refugee from the 80’s Southern California psychedelic college rock scene.
Whether it’s the new sounds from old favorites Magnetic Flowers, or familiar influences via a new voice in Jessica Oliver of People Person, either way it’s a great indicator of the creatively vibrant indie rock scene that is present in Columbia currently.