Piano Magic Disaffected

Somewhere between the Cure and Arab Strap lies Piano Magic's latest album — a combination of electronic tinged mope music and tragic ambience. Disaffected is stark, pretty, and subdued, slowly gliding through themes of isolation, loneliness and dread as cleanly and as sharply as a straight razor. Despite being easily comparable to other UK maudlin pop bands (the aforementioned, along with Tindersticks and the Smiths), Piano Magic craft a sound of their own. Their music is, as the album's title suggests, cold and refined, with pared-down guitar licks echoing behind synth sweeps and half-sung, half-sighed vocals. Unlike contemporaries Arab Strap, they forsake tales of empty debauchery for a more esoteric approach to unhappiness. The lyrics are teeming with supernatural imagery, and there is an underlying theme of death. Piano Magic's approach to pain is a little more painful: "Disaffected" leaves a lingering feeling of doom once it's over. Tracks like "Your Ghost" are strikingly beautiful, with simple instrumentation supplemented by haunting sound effects. "Night of the Long Knives" and "The Nostalgist" bring to mind the Cure's Disintegration both musically and production-wise. Though the lyrics at times feel forced, the music never falters from its gorgeously melancholic aesthetic (although the overuse of electronic devices, including a Vocoder on one track, at times detracts from its effect). In summary, Disaffected is dark, ethereal and lovely, ideal as a suicide soundtrack but a comely listen on any occasion. (Darla)