Emotional, Electric Indie-Pop
One thing is clear during the first listen of Majical Cloudz – empathy is imperative to understanding where the music, members and message is founded. A filmy, ghostly quality manifests itself throughout most of the group’s releases, but their latest is the strongest example of that stripped-down nature that has made them an interesting group since their first release. Are You Alone is the third album from the indie-electronic pop group released October 16th, 2015.
At first glance, the duo of Devon Welsh and Matt Otto seems to be what many of these electro pop indie groups appear to be. However, Majical Cloudz has something different – there’s an element of sincerity to Welsh’s lyrics and Otto’s musical additions that permeates each song, especially during a live setting.
Though there are several stark dichotomies that stretch throughout Majical Cloudz, such as the distinct musical personalities in Welsh and Otto, but their live performance as opposed to their album presentation is a completely different experience. For one, Welsh is the main attraction on stage, sometimes even singing acapella in some of the band’s older songs. Otto, on the other hand, is spinning the atmospherics of the show. If the two were a piece of music, Otto would be the harmonies and subtle auditory additions while Welsh would be the melody. Each member properly plays their part to our benefit.
Given that Welsh and Otto once toured with Lorde, it’s no surprise where the band seems to be finding inspiration. The lyrics are honest, sincere and the music even seems to adopt that same element. The fact that the music is stripped down so much almost gives the feeling that Welsh and Otto drew us into an intimate, professionally done demo. Now that might appear unfair, but the demo-like quality actually presents more than meets the ear. It’s almost like the group is performing directly in the room.
“So Blue,” a perfect example on the record about how stripped down the band expresses themselves with their musical approach. From start to finish the song is essentially Welsh, a somber piano melody and the rare instance of a kick and snare to descend into a trance. There is a hauntingly spare quality throughout the song, like a proverbial void, as the percussion gently litters the background.
Welsh easily paints a picture during “So Blue” that makes it difficult not to feel as if the actual color is unfolding in the calmest of forms, almost like silent waves that rush to shore and back again.
“Downtown,” a song about forgetting responsibilities and sharing in a new memory. Downtown, the place where things are happening and people are buzzing. The song sounds like cars are whizzing by as Welsh delivers vocally, streetlights almost dart through the periphery. While images such as “Downtown” tend to flesh themselves out throughout the album in quite illustrative fashion, the main focal point is the emotional connection Welsh creates with the listener.
At its most elemental, music is supposed to lift you somewhere new, to common ground among us humans, and sometimes to a place of loneliness. But that loneliness is not one-sided. Time and time again certain pieces, lyrics, arrangements have provided comfort in that place. Welsh’s point is that we don’t have to bottle up these emotions in order to continue living day to day; in fact, it is quite the opposite. By realizing what is happening inside and letting them pour out (maybe on stage), we let others know they can be open and honest with themselves, too.
Perhaps this is why we see Welsh naked on stage – exposure is the essence of human connection because it leads to understanding. Are You Alone is not just a title – it’s a question, and can you really be alone if someone else feels it, too?