The Magic Numbers has walked a fine line since their 2005 debut, producing music whose quality seems in defiance of its chosen genre: everyone-friendly radio-rock that works almost in spite of itself. Whether competing for the Mercury Prize or opening for dreary acts like Snow Patrol or the current incarnation of the Who, they’ve always seemed one or two steps from tumbling into outright mediocrity. That tumble seems to occur on The Runaway, a lifeless collection of unimaginative tracks that’s glued firmly to the middle of the road.
The Magic Numbers have had flashes of promise. Their 2005 self-titled LP had moments of appealing post-twee rock (think PAS/CAL's more Guitar Hero-y moments), even if the back half was clogged with too many plodding tracks. But the band continued with the latter direction on 2007's Those the Brokes, with an increasingly uneven ratio of solid cuts to flat-out bricks.
Only a year separated the Magic Numbers' sparkling eponymous debut and 2006's misfiring Those the Brokes, which saw only one song clocking in at under four minutes and several over five. Their four-year absence since suggests a major rethink, and Björk producer Valgeir Sigurðsson and Nick Drake's strings arranger – the now late Robert Kirby – have sculpted a darker, more sumptuous sound around songs full of regrets and apologies. Amid layers of harmonies and reverb, Kirby's gossamer strings are employed to sublime effect on opener The Pulse.
The Magic Numbers have decided they want to grow up a bit. Tom Hocknell 2010 When The Magic Numbers first emerged five years ago with an eponymous debut LP, their uplifting West Coast harmonies couldn’t hide hints of hidden troubles. This, their third album, continues the darker themes of 2006’s Those the Brokes, while being careful not to lose the tunes.