Review Summary: "I wanna be happy for no reason"Practice Magic and Seek Professional Help When Necessary
was born out of the same circumstances as many artists who’ve crafted some of the most achingly beautiful breakup albums of our time: Alex Toth separated from his love of eleven years, and then shortly thereafter broke his leg and found himself apartment-bound with nothing but his depression. As a classically trained jazz trumpeter, Toth found himself instead writing stripped down songs that were more in-tune with his mood. The Justin Vernon narrative may have just about worn itself out, but as long as artists continue to be inspired by heartbreak and situations that physically necessitate isolation, there will always be a silver lining to such emotional trauma. Toth brings us this gorgeously experimental folk-pop record, one that touches on the darker side of love while unfurling a fresh, triumphant perspective.
Initial inspection of Practice Magic
recalls everything from Perfume Genius to Coldplay – although the record doesn’t quite carry the indie clout of the former, nor does it ever dip into the simplicity of the latter. In reality, Toth’s debut lies somewhere in between – it’s a persistently engaging experience, employing various electronic elements, trumpets, orchestral strings, and sticky-sweet melodies. In that sense, it’s sort of the best of both worlds. Toth never buries his head so deep within his ambition that he loses sight of creating enjoyable music, yet he also effortlessly emits this glow of creative energy that seems to occur naturally in his craft. It’s a remarkably effective balance, one that places him in the enviable position of being both respectable and marketable.
The record hits its stride early with ‘No Reason’ – a clear cut gem that showcases the record’s jazzier inclinations alongside lush strings and a titular refrain of “we’re happy now, and yes we practice magic.” That momentum is carried on for most of the album with the earworm melody of ‘Copilot’ – which sounds like it could be a modern take on the Beatles – right on through to the horn-underscored ‘Picture of You’, where the choral harmonies recall the warmth and euphoria of the Beach Boys. Now, these comparisons make it sound like this should be the most uplifting album of all time, but the similarities exist mostly within the execution of the choruses alone. Not all that dissimilar from Sufjan Stevens, Bon Iver, Perfume Genius, or yes – even Coldplay – Toth has a way of injecting bright flourishes into his sad pop vignettes. Take ‘When I Awoke’ for example, which takes a melancholic opening verse (when I awoke I saw you through my glassy orbs / you looked like a shadow of the day before
) and then spins it with a massively contrasting tribal chorus that turns it into a palatable single. It’s a gift that prevents Practice Magic and Seek Professional Help When Necessary
from ever settling into a depressing rut. The mood of the album favors inspiration for better or worse, a trait that at the very least boosts its replay value.
Toth’s first outing combines some of the best elements of contemporary folk and indie – but more than anything, it’s simply a batch of ambitious and well-executed pop songs. The infusion of jazz and electronic elements adds a deliriously beautiful dimension, with Toth’s trumpet skills in particular serving as a point of distinction over his peers. Practice Magic and Seek Professional Help When Necessary
is dynamic, bewitching, and admittedly a little bit unexpected. It might not scar as deeply as a Vernon retreats to his remote cabin
tale, but this breakup-inspired record has an allure of its own. Practice Magic
looks to the next beginning, and aims to dazzle.