Release Date: Jun 12, 2012
Record label: Hardly Art
Genre(s): Pop/Rock, Alternative/Indie Rock, Alternative Pop/Rock
Earlier this year, Ethiopian-Finnish singer/songwriter Mirel Wagner celebrated the beauty of the dark side of life with her desirous death songs, but with Ruler of the Night, Tim Cohen's band Magic Trick offers its own take on pain and sorrow, cloaking heart-wrenching tales in a lush tapestry at the intersection of psych, folk, and country. Starting the project around 2009 during downtime from the sunny noise pop of his Fresh & Onlys -- though Ruler marks the second album under the Magic Trick moniker -- Magic Trick is a wholly different animal: introspective, heartfelt, and vividly lyrical in contrast to the Fresh & Onlys' playful swagger. Just as Cohen is pictured locked in a pillory on the album cover, he sings in the haunting ballad "Torture" of "going to the gallows in (his) mind" as a metaphor for being kept from holding the hand or feeling the heartbeat of his lover, tempering his anguish with lilting marimba, a Southern soul bassline, and layers of delicate harmonies by Alicia Vanden Heuvel (Aislers Set) and Noelle Cahill, whose talents are exquisitely realized throughout the record.
It’s easy to get lost in the catalog of a musician as prolific as Tim Cohen. The Fresh & Onlys frontman has also contributed to bands including (but hardly limited to) Sonny & The Sunsets, Black Fiction and Amocoma, while keeping a fairly steady flow of solo material first as Feller Quentin, then under his given name, and now at the front of a new band: Magic Trick. Picking up where last year’s Tim Cohen’s Magic Trick left off, Ruler of the Night solidifies a lineup that includes Cohen, James Kim (of Kelley Stoltz’s band), Alicia Vanden Heuvel (of The Aislers Set) and Noelle Cahill.
Fluctuating between tragic musings and a breezy optimism, retribution and self-reflection are the prevalent themes of Magic Trick’s first release on Hardly Art. The brainchild of Fresh & Only’s Tim Cohen, Ruler of the Night is far from tricky. If anything, the album is intriguing in its genuine -- albeit idiosyncratic -- approach to songwriting.
If you're looking for evidence of Tim Cohen's transition from psych-rock everyman to honest-to-God balladeer, the signs have always been there. Almost all the songs he's written for the Fresh & Onlys are open-hearted, his sensitive songwriting and sincere vocal delivery augmenting the band's loud, often hard-charging sound. Last year's full-length Magic Trick and the Bad Blood EP found him inching toward a slower, softer approach; a few of those standouts were more likely to inspire a Conway Twitty comparison than anything related to the 13th Floor Elevators.