I don’t know what it’s like where you are, but it’s been pretty dreary here in Scotland these last few days. We’ve officially reached that stage of the year where there are far more grey, wet (dreich) mornings than there are bright ones. Such is the vibrancy of Genevieve Miles’ excellent Magic Man though, that for four minutes or so it kind of feels like it’s 25° again and we’ve a whole glorious summer stretching out ahead of us. Oh, and that there’s no deadly virus hanging around in the air (or on the trolley handles in Asda) either.
Opening with a somewhat disorientating spoken word intro that reminds a little of Kate Nash, it’s not long before Magic Man opens out and mutates into a gently shifting pop tune that’s quite difficult to pin down. I mean that totally in a good way too; sax lines sneak up on you, funky electric guitars lurk in the shadows, synths fizz and pop, and Miles delivers a playful vocal that keeps you hooked – all of which is held together by a pulsing kick and some low-key percussive touches.
The result is something that feels refreshing, and completely not what I was expecting from the first few seconds. There’s a definite 80s/90s pop vibe going on, but it’s very much a modern production full of ideas and ambition. Everything is light and fluffy – kind of like a pop soufflé – and, man, you could drown in this stuff. The more I listen, the more I’m reminded of the kind of material on the Mystery Jets’ Twenty One. It’s part down to the quality of the song but also there’s a similarity vocally with a young Laura Marling. Much like Marling’s, there’s a very loose, candid feel to Miles’ voice that appeals. Anyway, be warned: Magic Man is going to be stuck in your mind for days.
The second track on the release, Sad Song, starts out sounding like the polar opposite of the opener. Beginning with just an acoustic guitar and Miles’ hushed vocals, you can almost feel your tear ducts preparing to be called upon, before the rug is again whipped from beneath your feet. Soon, the acoustic guitar is replaced by synth, a minimal electronic beat, and some lo-fi jangly electric. Again, Miles’ distinct way with lyrics and melody (and her inherent Englishness) is a delight. It’s a really imaginative arrangement too; with tiny details jumping out with every repeated listen. Tonally, Sad Song feels – as the title would suggest – a bit more subdued in comparison to Magic Man. Whereas the latter is almost accepting and defiant in its recounting of a heartbreak, this one is more pensive and introspective – much like how the same thing can be fine in the daylight yet the worst thing in the world come the dark.
I’m sure it goes without saying that I like this release, but I really like it. Genevieve Miles is making smart, fun, and inventive pop music that doesn’t take itself too seriously and God knows there needs to be more of that kind of thing in the world. At just twenty years of age as well, it’s easy to see why the Birmingham-based songwriter is making waves with her idiosyncratic take on alternative pop. Her Spotify bio features a testimonial from BBC Introducing that simply reads “the sunny indie queen“, and I must say, I wholeheartedly agree.