It’s tempting to cast Pigeons, the second album from Brooklyn’s Here We Go Magic, in a dialectic showdown with its more manic, self-titled predecessor, a deeply flawed album that peaked higher but dipped lower. Where Here We Go Magic was comprised of shameless cribbing mixed with resourceful four-track ingenuity, Pigeons is defined by tight songs and safe choices, feeling equally derivative but far less ambitious.
Despite the album’s consistency, nothing here is as catchy or expressive as “Fangela” from the first album, or even “Only Pieces,” which took Paul Simon facsimile to new levels of faithfulness. Yet like a stuffy, upstanding suitor in a Jane Austen novel, Pigeons is the safer option: It won’t break your heart or self-destruct in a fit of fizzy, abstract noisemaking. Which is exactly what Here We Go Magic did, with a strong first half that bottomed out into an inexplicable three-song pit of dreary fuzz. Pigeons is much more well behaved, containing no such surprises.
Pleasant and consistent throughout, the album wends decorously along a garden path of tangentially related styles, at times sounding more like a satellite radio station than the work of a single band. But a sound this buttoned-down seems conspicuously like settling. That this genre hopping becomes the album’s most identifiable character is indicative of such lowered expectations.
The lack of a distinct voice, one of many trouble spots on their first effort, cements itself here as the band’s biggest problem, and while there are no outright pitfalls, it also makes things flow smoothly from the bouncy, Malkmus-like jabber of “Old World United” to the dreamy sprawl of “F.F.A.P” to the muttery drum-circle weirdness of “Vegetable or Native”—continuous riffs on other bands’ styles that never totally come to life. Here We Go Magic, while jagged and noticeably incomplete, was at least hedged with promise. Pigeons may be the better album, but it still feels hollow, ringing with the sound of a band accepting their own shortcomings.