"As a work of strict “indie-pop” Ship does its job fairly well and is well worth a listen. Beyond that though, it stands as a minor stopping point in a larger journey..."
In 2009 Here We Go Magic released Pigeons into the world to relatively widespread acclaim. (Pitchfork gave it a 7.5 at the time…re-issue will probably get a 13!!!!!) Fueled by a freak folk sense of urgency and what sounds like an army of bargain basement Casios, Luke Temple fashioned an odd collection of “pop” snippets that were pretty, but for the most part weightless. There’s a shabby charm to the record – driven mainly by Luke Temple’s glorious tenor/falsetto – and while chock full of potential, the record never quite gets there. On A Different Ship, Here We Go Magic hasn’t solved that problem, but they’ve most certainly done their best to try.
With the help of producer Nigel Goodrich (Radiohead, REM, Pavement) Temple and crew have made a record that while still rough around the edges, manages to reign in most of the groups own disserving tendencies. There’s still the way-to-cheap sounding keyboard bleat here and there (see the track “Make Up Your Mind”) but those moments are few and far between. If anything the record might suffer from sounding TOO much like a Nigel Goodrich production. Often referred to as the “6th member of Radiohead” it should come as no surprise that Ship is a record that has a good bit of latter Radiohead infused in its DNA. On the aforementioned track, it’s a driving guitar recalling “Jigsaw Falling Into Place” off of Radiohead’s In Rainbows. Later on in the record, it’s a haunting wall of sound on “Over The Ocean” that sounds like some lost Kid-A outtake that Temple was brought in to sing over. Is this a bad thing? Probably not. But it may serve to rob Here We Go Magic of any identity that they may have been trying to establish with this record.
That said if you’re looking for subtly charming diversion that has mountains of potential on display then A Different Ship is probably the record for you. Dig to deep and the unpossibly cheesy/lo-fi guitars that begin the song “How Do I Know” (though the track does crack open to a fairly joyous mini-wall of sound by its end), or absolutely cringe inducing use of over chorused instruments ala Cindy Lauper's “Time After Time” on the eight minute long album closer/title track may cause you to run for the more refined hills of, say, Human League. On the 2011 release Don’t Act Like You Don’t Care, a record that was recorded before his work with Here We Go Magic, Temple proved that he is capable of simply letting his songs speak for themselves rather than burying them in layer upon layer of unnecessary electronic noise. It’s a lesson in restraint that would benefit not just A Different Ship, but Here We Go Magic’s music in general.
As a work of strict “indie-pop” Ship does its job fairly well and is well worth a listen. Beyond that though, it stands as a minor stopping point in a larger journey for a band that clearly has the right tools at their disposal, they just haven’t quite figured out how to use all of them yet.