Firstly, don’t ask me what is going on with that artwork. I don’t have a clue, but some things can definitely be said about it: it’s striking, and will divide opinion, much like the band whose album sleeve it adorns. I’ve long been aware of Scissor Sisters, but until now, that has meant only the singles. I can probably speak for quite a few others in that respect, but in case you weren’t aware, they can produce pretty good albums too, if their latest, Magic Hour, is anything to go by.
There is an underlying disco feel to a lot of the songs on this album, which, in a way, doesn’t distinguish it from the band’s other material. The quartet have stuck doggedly to their guns over three albums, but it is perhaps quite ironic that the best songs on their new offering are the ones that hint towards their sound being taken in new directions. There’s an almost Balearic feel to San Luis Obispo, a perfectly summery song that is given a difficult slot in the tracklisting, but manages to stand on its own in quite an impressive manner. Year of Living Dangerously is another highlight; the band slow things down, throw in some big drums and go all 80s synth-pop on us, with fantastic results.
As has become the case with their output, though, some of the best songs on Magic Hour are (or will be) singles. They certainly know how to pick them. The album opens with forthcoming third single Baby Come Home, which kicks things off in style with an irresistible hook and an infectious confidence. Of course, the Azealia Banks-featuring Shady Love was the lead single; it debuted around the turn of the year, and that means it’s been around for almost six months, but it sounds even better in album context. Jake Shears’s rapped delivery in the verses is extremely well done, and the chorus is sublime. They know exactly when to deliver some brilliant choruses; Exhibits B and C are Only the Horses and the absolutely huge-sounding Let’s Have a Kiki.
As already proven, though, Magic Hour works from start to finish. Even when it slips into more reserved territory towards the end (and produces a possible sleeper hit in The Secret Life of Letters), it manages to stay on form. More than a few pop albums suffer from being front-loaded; not this one. Scissor Sisters are back on track, and ready to bring the fun.
Magic Hour is out now via Polydor.