The Apples in Stereo “New Magnetic Wonder”

By Gus Bode

Record Label Yep Roc Records Release Date: Feb. 6

Rating 4 stars

It’s been a long, strange trip for The Apples in Stereo, but the band may have found the keys to psychedelic-pop perfection on the sunny and eclectic “New Magnetic Wonder.”

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Ever since 1997s “Tone Soul Evolution,” The Apples in Stereo have been a band in transition. “Evolution” was rife with pop melodies while 1999s “Her Wallpaper Reverie” dabbled in funky instrumentals, and 2001s “Velocity of Sound” was a raucous, over-cranked and fuzzed-out encapsulation of what the band has been doing live for years. “New Magnetic Wonder” takes elements from each of those and coalesces into joyful, rollicking trippiness.

Trying to peg down the sound of The Apples’ latest release is nearly impossible, but the music runs the gamut from ’60s style British invasion pop, techno-inflected psychedelia and just a touch of folk and funk. Terms such as “Beatles-esque” get thrown around rather liberally whenever a band shows any proficiency for melody, but it’s not too audacious to say “New Magnetic Wonder” might be the type of record John and Paul may have come up with had they been locked in a room with a vocoder, a few guitars and plenty of mind-altering substances.

Apples mastermind Robert Schneider steers the band through poppy Brit-rock on tunes such as “Can You Feel It?,” “Energy” and “The Sun is Out,” while working in rock elements along the way. The bluesy growl of “Skyway,” the rock steady riff of “Sunndal Song” and the jangly “Open Eyes” all help augment an album rife with sharp transitions.

Following this, “Beautiful Machine (Parts 1-2)” and “Beautiful Machine (Parts 3-4)” work in tandem as an epic trip. Despite the disparate variety, most of the album flows together without any song seeming too jarring or unsettling to the overall feel of the music.

The only real missteps on the record come in the form of 10 extremely short “transition” tracks that serve absolutely no purpose aside from padding the length of “New Magic Wonder” and marring an otherwise outstanding album. The vocoder vocals of “Joanie Don’t You Worry” and “Hello Lola,” along with the off-kilter melodies of “Non-Pythagorean Composition” are mildly interesting but could be easily cut without changing the album for the worse.

It may have taken The Apples in Stereo half a decade to release its latest record, but the wait was certainly well worth it. “Transition” tracks aside, “New Magnetic Wonder” blends old and new beautifully, all without losing the musical variety for which the band has become known.

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