New Music | Friday Roll Out: Vinyl Williams, Activity, M.A.G.S.

As pure as some things are and can be, there are moments when I just can’t. I wish I could, but I can’t. As much as I love the last couple of releases by Vinyl Williams, there isn’t enough emotion throughout Aeterna (Harmony Records) that I can muster together to fall in line with other albums like Cosmopolis or Azure. There are moments here when things become remain still and don’t allow Williams to unleash his usual atmospheric qualities. There are moments here though where does create a psychedelic trip through memory lane but there are also moments in his vocal delivery where his delivery is reminiscent of Al B. Sure. You can tell me I’m wrong if you’d like, but I’m not. It’s songs like “Waking Up” that seem stark and doesn’t hold up to what he’s done in the past. Well, everyone can’t win all the time.


Is it a problem if you’re…different? I mean, those differences make us all unique individuals, and we’re all searching for something greater than ourselves. The New York quartet Activity is different. Different from its contemporaries, different from so many around them. The band just released its sophomore effort Spirit In The Room (Western Vinyl) and while the band may flirt with standard instrumentation at times, things are definitely differrent.

Electronics comingle with drums and guitars allowing songs to traverse ambient planes like on “Careful Let’s Sleepwalk,” lying somewhere between space and time. Cooing background vocals linger, with Travis Johnson’s lazy vocal delivery piecing it all together. But it’s the oddly infectious “Heaven’s Chords,” with easy-flowing guitars, a steady rhythm, and ethereal backdrop play host to Johnson’s voice as he sings about the heaven-sent chords the band plays. It’s effortless and intriguing at the same time. The band plays with melody, and the experimentalist aspect of the band isn’t missed as it tosses an array of sounds which we hear on “Where The Art Is Hung.” The band navigates through the song delicately through the melancholic cooing vocals. It’s enticing. But we understand it isn’t the only thing the band is capable of doing.

Activity slices through slight of hand movements on “Clouds Come Here,” first with simple guitar strumming as the group builds around it and Johnson’s voice before eventually dissipating. Throughout “Icing,” the band’s steady rhythm marches on as the group blends in an assortment of sounds, around it. It’s flawless. But it’s on “I Like What You Like,” where the band sounds larger than life as guitars seem to echo in the distance and foreground. It’s quite ingenious.

With Spirit In The Room, Activity pushes boundaries of sound within sound. There are layers underneath the melodies they offer and catching hold of it all isn’t an easy task but it does eventually surface. This is the album that’s easy to fall in love with.


What does it actually take to make good or great music? It’s the one question that’s evaded a number of artists, but we don’t need to discuss the constant and consistent disappointment because it’s an obvious and mote point. On the positive end though, we are able to witness a handful of individuals that come together collectively or just create music on their own, piecing together ideas in their simplest form in order to multiply those same concepts before witnessing the fruition of their works.

While some may not be familiar with M.A.G.S., the project of one Elliot Douglas, it’s high time we all try to figure out where he’s going. Depending on who you ask, Destroyer (Smartpunk Records) is his 2nd or 3rd full-length release, with nine fully realized songs that run the gamut from raucous pop-punk anthems to sweet & lovelorn numbers with cascading melodies dripping throughout. If there’s one thing M.A.G.S. isn’t short on, it’s melody. Let’s just call this album what it is though, an eclectic release filled with pop hooks mixed with punk reverie.

Douglas simply smothers his songs with overdriven guitars, barely leaving room to breath but always leaving his voice front and center with loads of melodic inflections. M.A.G.S tracks soar and are elevated to levels you wouldn’t believe existed. The epic “Elephant” for example, is a beautifully winding number that subtly plays with dynamics, never making it too obvious, as power chords revolve around it. Even at its tamer moments, it’s thunderous. Trust me when I tell you it will leave you clamoring for more of the same. The exquisite “Swimming” keeps the distorted storminess to a minimum as Douglas plays within the space he controls but fully engages his vocal melody and guitars swirling around. But it’s the loving sweetness of “Her” where we get an idea of what M.A.G.S. is really about, allowing all aspects of Douglas’ creativity the ability to blossom. His cooing voice is sonically charged by guitars as they chug along but it’s the melody and the sweet words he utters that take the song far beyond where anyone has taken things before. Through Destroyer, M.A.G.S. shows us all how his sound continues to evolve. Through these nine songs, we understand how amazing life can be.