MAGIC DANCE – New Eyes (2018)
Mixing AOR with Synthwave ’80s retro, MAGIC DANCE was presented at this blog many years ago. Impressed by the the band’s latest album, in late 2017 Magic Dance mastermind Jon Siejka was signed by Frontiers Music. For this new album titled “New Eyes” – the first via the Italian label to be released tomorrow – Jon collaborated with Jack Simchak and Tim Mackey on guitars, Mike Peniston and Kevin Krug on bass, and Kevin McAdams on drums.
While the sound is now heavier, more guitar oriented, the overall sound is still classic AOR oriented, with strong hints of the mid-Eighties (think Loverboy, Boulevard, etc).
Siejka titled the album “New Eyes”, because he thinks it’s a fresh perspective on the ’80s style that has been writing and recording for the past six years. Indeed, on “New Eyes” Magic Dance is not a Jon Siejka / synthwave project anymore.
The recording sounds like a ‘real’ band, there’s real drums, guitars, bass, the whole thing, and while still there’s a strong synth / keyboard presence, it isn’t in the ‘outrun way’ but more in a song format shape.
And the song format in “New Eyes” is pure ’80s.
‘You’re Holding Back’ open the CD with that ‘magic synths’, yet soon appears a strong rhythm section (not sequencers anymore but real bass / drums), ever present guitars and Jon’s voice quite high in the mix. The ‘real band’ aspect is the first thing you’ll notice about this new Magic Dance, but also the ‘huge production’.
Then ‘Never Go Back’ is a gem, and a personal favorite. Yes, it’s pure AOR circa 1987 but Magic Dance serves the whole thing with a freshness for this genre that only I heard from Creye this year. This is terrific anthemic tune that could have been at the opening credits for an action movie back in the day.
More quality comes with ‘These Four Walls’. Remember the pristine Canadian productions from the second half of the ’80s? Yeah, this song has some of Boulevard on it, and why not, some current Vega. Love it!
‘Please Wake Me’ is perhaps the song that most brings to mind early Magic Dance, but again, there’s big drums and guitar riffs for this pristine midtempo melodic song.
There’s a dreamy melody for ‘Cut Beneath the Skin’ with a FM Radio feel all over, ‘When Nothing’s Real’ adds biting guitars and a big chorus (think H.E.A.T), while US radio-ready ’80 poppy AOR is the nerve of ‘Better Things’. All these are followed by mid-paced, semi-ballad ‘For a Time (The End of My World)’, plenty of heavy synths and a 1984 California Highway atmosphere.
‘Looking for Love’ is another winner for me. Take ’87 Outside Edge, add a dash of Glass Tiger and why not some Fortune, and you have this fantastic piece of pure Eighties AOR. There’s varied guitars ranging from distorted to clean, different keyboard textures and layers of vocals. One of THE songs of the year.
Closer, title track ‘New Eyes’ is tricky. Starts in a ballad mode with just piano and Jon’s vocals, but grows and grows for an emotional chorus and then the full band explodes. Think Wild Rose type of song.
I really love Magic Dance indie early works. However Jon Siejka has surprised me with “New Eyes”: this is a ‘new’ Magic Dance, a band, and a band that plays ’80s AOR.
Obviously Frontiers must have asked for this focus, and Siejka replied with a wonderful slice 1985-1987 stuff to die for. He managed all aspects from “New Eyes” – Frontiers Music isn’t involved into the production.
All drums, bass and guitars were recorded by skilled session musicians under Siejka’s supervision, all arranged by himself.
I mentioned Creye above as one of the more ‘fresh’ releases of the year, add Magic Dance “New Eyes” to the selected list. I mean not a ‘cookie cutter’ sound, but original, personal, inspired by the glorious era yet distinctive.
01 – You’re Holding Back
02 – Never Go Back
03 – These Four Walls
04 – Please Wake Me
05 – Cut Beneath the Skin
06 – When Nothing’s Real
07 – Better Things
08 – For a Time (The End of My World)
09 – Looking for Love
10 – New Eyes
Vocals, Synths & Programming by Jon Siejka
Guitar – Tim Mackey
Guitar, Bass – Jack Simchak
Bass – Kevin Krug, Mike Peniston
Drums – Kevin McAdams