In the gap between Magik Markers Surrender to the Fantasy and 2020 it’s fair to say that the world has shifted, yet the band picks up their distillation of noise-pop and make it seem just as biting and relevant as ever. The group has long had a proclivity for balancing the brutal with the beautiful, wielding grunge-slung hooks alongside skin-flaying noise and tender moments that poke at the new skin underneath the wounds. The formula hasn’t changed but it feels like in their absence Magik Markers only became better conduits for their brand of barnacled pop shakedown. They ooze into the record, slow and primordial with eyes on the skies and heads in the mist as Elisa inhabits the spectral form for “Surf’s Up.” By the time they’re three songs in the sonic briars of “That Dream (Shitty Beach) are tearing at the listener with a thousand tiny cuts.
Both Elisa and Pete took the break from Markers to release solo works that embraced more tender territory and the tidal tone on “Born Dead” is an argument in favor of Ambrogio’s devastating way with a song. Even outside of the context of the album, the song’s layered synths and cavernous vocals relay a darkness and mournfulness that most songwriters never touch. While it would seem tempting to languish, the band jumps right back into the fray, draining the pool and skating in the sun with spot-on aughts noise pop that pulls me right back to an era when Eat Skull, Tyvek, and Times New Viking blistered the speakers for a summer or two.
As with any impulse in the Markers’ quiver, it doesn’t last as they weave further darkness over the last half of the album —plunging the listener right back into the depths that they plumbed in “Born Dead” and “Surfs Up” with closer “Quarry (If You Dive)” and the winding, tortured “CDROM.” The tonal shifts never feel wedged though — surging through bouts of depression and regret balanced with the requisite anger and joy necessary to deal with the overwhelming feelings. While bright spots appear, the album is more contemplative and haunted by the past than any of their previous albums. The lure of dark waters is difficult to resist and like the Markers maybe we’re all not dealing well, but we fight through nonetheless. 2020 is likely a year that we need Magik Markers more than ever. Its good to have ‘em back.
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