Since 2010’s solid debut, All Those I Know, tangential Milwaukee dream-pop duo Eric & Magill (ex-Camden, Decibully, The Promise Ring) has been putting out material at a greater rate and of a higher quality than almost every band in their former home. Take into account this was all done with an ocean between co-collaborators Eric Osterman (Brooklyn) and Ryan Weber (remote Kenya), and releases that were already impressive on their own are just short of being considered small recorded miracles. Eric & Magill’s fourth release (not counting two EPs of obscure cover songs), In This Light, no longer has the padding of a cross-continental back story to push the project forward. However, the now-Brooklyn-Los Angeles (by way of Milwaukee) long-distance project doesn’t need an angle or geographic modifier, as its latest and most straightforward effort shows Eric & Magill’s output thrives in (relative) proximity.
Opener “Easy It Goes” draws in the hushed, echoed vocal effects of past works, but is propelled by driving percussion of cymbals and drums (a semi-rare occurrence in predecessors) that’s continued in “What’s Your Secret?”—only to be joined by fuzzy electric guitars and squealing keys. Like much of In This Light, the songs at the outset seem to be a distant-though-recognizable cry from songs with impossibly muddied vocal effects, somberly strummed acoustic guitar, and chants of African locals employed only an album earlier. With Night Singers, structured indie-pop effort “Baggage And Clothes” was the exception. Here, songs of the ilk are the norm—implemented better than ever in hook-laden “That Old Haunt” near the end of the record.
That’s not to say Eric & Magill’s proclivity for dreamy, melodic, and lumbering works of beauty don’t crop up from time to time. Minute-plus “Suburban Devastation” hearkens back to much of All Those I Know with Weber’s stripped-down vocals, and an acoustic guitar and piano melding into a downcast interlude. Meanwhile, “You Never Know” and “Up In The Air” are business as usual with keyboard-coveyed-“horns” in the former, and the electronic drums backing whispered vocals that are dripping in reverb in both. In This Light is Eric & Magill’s most accessible and inviting record to date. It’s too early to tell whether the narrowing time zone gap of its members will rein in the band’s all-worldly sound, or send it in a new direction altogether, but this record is a good indication that whatever path Eric & Magill takes next will yield something worthwhile.