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A review of...

Golden Tongue by Magana

Date: 
October 28, 2016
Writer: 
Adam Millard
7.5

The gist

A brief smorgasbord is served up on Magana's debut EP

The music

Jeni Magana has had an interesting musical journey. She was born in California and grew up on a diet of classical music (playing clarinet and upright bass), she began writing her own songs whilst studying in Boston and then joined up with variety of bands upon moving to New York (a phase that also included session jobs with the  Dropkick Murphys and writing jingles for commercials). It's safe to safe that Magana's career path has been anything but the generic indie-singer-songwriter route. Which is probably why this debut EP isn't a generic indie-singer-songwriter collection, and we should all be thankful for that.

It's an assured and confident (especially for an artist who classifies herself as a "quiet person" - which the EP's title perhaps ironically references) collection of four tracks which act as a kind of showcase of Magana's multifaceted talents. Opener "Get It Right" is a dark alternative gem which would set the tone for a great alt-rock EP, but Magana has no interest in that, instead she skips around the genres, giving us just a fleeting glimpse of each. On "Inches Apart" Magana goes country and ends up sounding a lot like Phosphorescent. This is the track that I initially found the least interesting, but it's a grower, and on each subsequent listen I found extra depth, especially from the gradual build up of atmospherics which are a real joy. "The World Doesn’t Know" opens like a lost classic of musical theatre, it's both melancholy and imposing and is all the more impressive when you consider that this is a debut EP which was presumably recorded with a small budget. Finally, on title track "Golden Tongue", Magana shows of her vocal range in an epic (albeit a short epic at 3:13 minutes) closer which flits from lo-fi Tune-Yards to full on epic Bjork or modern-day Radiohead. 

As previously mentioned, Golden Tongue plays like a sampling board, and therefore it's not the most fluid record you'll hear this year, but Magana more than makes up for that with sheer versatility. It's a hugely promising introduction, and a nice teaser for a debut album proper.