I will never forget the first time that I heard Caithlin de Marrais' voice; the opening lines of "Rise" off of Rainer Maria's Look Now Look Again reach out from speakers with a naked vulnerability that imbues each word with its own spark and each line with a lifetime of experience. Caithlin's mostly disembodied (save for the times I have seen the band live) voice since that point holds a spot in my psyche that few other musical entities can come near. With her debut solo album, My Magic City, de Marrais strikes it out on her own in a move that echoes that initial naked vulnerability by putting her abilities to the test absent of her former compatriots in Rainer Maria (although Kyle Fischer, the former guitarist of Rainer Maria, does make a few appearances on the album amongst other guests).
"Voicemail" immediately shows that this is not just another Rainer Maria album with its pleasant tones and laid back feel while still maintaining some of the upbeat style; the vocal hooks and harmonies are excellent and rather infectious sounding (when de Marrais sings "What was I thinking" it is classic). "Outer Space Is Still Sexy" is a brilliant song (have to say that since she name drops the Millennium Falcon), but besides the obvious pull of such nerd trivia, this track displays several new sounds from de Marrais that lift the song up from being just a basic singer/songwriter type of track to something that incorporates slide guitar and a host of other instrumentation to expand the experience. "The Cottage" is a real laid back love song that contains a nostalgic sentimentality via a syrupy sweet vocal delivery amongst piano and guitar accompaniment, which accentuates the vocals in just the right way. The hooks on "Play Fair" are damn hum-able and just come at listeners in waves. The elegant aural sounds of "The Fire" is another song which thus far seems to be infinitely repeatable maybe due to its simplicity or maybe in just the overall delivery. Possibly the most realized song on My Magic City, "Carefully" hits on just about every good characteristic to be heard on the record; the arrangement is excellent, the melodies are spot on, the vocals are great, and the instrumentation is done just right.
My Magic City does not contain a single bad track, but rather just has a subtle sentimental mood and draws listeners with its sweet sounds. Caithlin de Marrais remarkably separates herself from her past by taking what she does well and surrounding it with stripped down musical arrangements which highlight her vocals. This record is in constant rotation for me right now; when I try to listen to something else, I just go right back to it. I highly recommend My Magic City.
7.8 / 10
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