The sound of a good band is essentially the sound of good teamwork, and that’s something that can easily be taken for granted. To have numerous people aiming for the same goal requires a harmonious manner, both in terms of having an agreeable mind-set and attitude about things, and also often in terms of playing in a style that is melodious. When you take into account many other professions where tensions are raised or where people just don’t combine to form a well-oiled machine, musicians come off looking like shining examples.
Of course, there are exceptions, and there plenty of examples of bands not working well together and it producing good results (The Police and the recording of their final album Synchronicity comes to mind – and that’s not just because the band in question here have a name that would appear to take itself from a song by The Police), but how great is it to hear a band just playing well together and sounding like they’re having a good time when doing so? With lots of overdubs and post-productions, it’s easy for all the layers to feel detached from each other. Indianapolis band She Does Is Magic do away with any of that, and come off sounding like three guys riffing away at each other in a large living room, playing to each other’s eagerness.
Their debut album, My Height In Heels, is an example of all this. Half of its eight tracks are instrumental, falling somewhere between a loose take on krautrock and I Can Hear the Heart Beating As One-era Yo La Tengo. That comparison might sound appealing, and the end result is, but its positivity might be a bit misleading. Opening track “Means Nothing” could be a sunnier, less detached distant relative of Lower Dens’ “Brains” if it was tightened itself up a little; if krautrock is like wearing a suit, then She Does Is Magic is t-shirts and jeans all the way. And there’s nothing wrong with wearing casual clothes, but there is a pining for the band to tense its approach, or even just its performances. The off-the-cuff sort of disposition suits them, but it also plays against them in that it can come off like the band aren’t reaching their full potential.
All this isn’t meant to sound degrading, but My Height In Heels lacks that special something that makes an indentation in your mind. When it’s playing it’s a pleasure, and there are far worse ways to spend twenty-six minutes of your life, but once it’s done, few moments remain lodged in your memory. There’s a distinguishable flair missing that stops it from coming off as something individual. Instead it can often sound like a mish-mash of other bands you know: a baggier, less English version of The Coral; an instrumental, less endearing Standard Fare. The best moment here is “Day At The Lake” where singer/guitarist Chad Serhal injects an unexpected dose of fury into his voice, backed by a track that keeps building with each sixteen bars that benefits from some staccato keys in the background. What’s a shame is that Serhal’s tense vocals on the track recall Dave Walter of Tammar (with just a hint of Matt Berninger) and instead don’t come off as his own. And oddly, too, he seems to be getting frustrated and passionate about an otherwise serene memory (“It rained but it didn’t bother us…it was just like a movie”).
Still, My Height In Heels is still a pleasurable listening experience. Serhal’s vocal sound like they need a little time to mature and find a more comfortable place to sit, and drummer Nathan Dynak could probably do with riding his cymbals a little less, but these lessons come with time. For a first effort She Does Is Magic have got something to be happy enough with. It’s admirable that tracks here are reworked version from their self-titled EP from 2011, showing that’s they’re already conscious of how there’s always work to be done. By the looks of it, She Does Is Magic are likely to remain a likeable amenity to spend a little time with.