Cuddle Magic, as I mentioned back in 2012 in Swing Modern Sounds #37, is a band to be reckoned and to admire, and their new release, in which Phyllis Chen’s toy piano (a luxurious flavor in their last album Info Nympho) has become a full-fledged voice in the band (to the point where she is a named collaborator on this album, Cuddle Magic & Phyllis Chen), proves the point: “An Extra Life,” the first video from the album features the slightly fractured arpeggios and interesting rhythmical twists and turns that have become trademarks of the band’s sound, as well as the beautiful arranging (note the way the horns work!), and the stellar vocal harmonies.
The album is really arrestingly beautiful, with both bits of classical, jazz, and rock and roll drifting through its surfaces, without ever seeming excessively scholastic. And I haven’t even mentioned the words yet, which are often sad, funny, allusive, and in the case of Edna St. Vincent Millay, who turns up here, too, highly poeticized, even rarified. “An Extra Life,” the video that debuts today, does all this and more, with its nearly ecstatic movement from a minimalist black and white vocabulary into dazzling and surreal color. And always in the presence of the bittersweet toy piano.
Cuddle Magic started their life playing very quietly, and while they are much more than that, they are extremely subtle and sophisticated. Don’t let that confuse you about how great this music is. It’s some of the very best music being produced these days. As the chorus of “An Extra Life” suggests: less is more.