Album Review: Melvin’s Holiday, by Lewis and the Strange Magics (Plus Interview)

Lewis and the Strange Magics are a heavy-psych band from Barcelona, Spain. The band produces groovy, stylish, psychedelic music, with strong funk and jam undercurrents. The band just released their third full length, Melvin’s Holiday. The album is a followup to the 2015 full-length Velvet Skin, the 2017 full-length Evade Your Soul, and the 2018 EP, The Ginger Sessions.

Melvin’s Holiday was independently released on September 6, 2019. It’s a concept album made up of nine, 1960’s and 70’s inspired, sexy, velvety, groovy, shag-carpeted tracks. Even the artwork by Shaun Miller is a throwback, with its retro style and filmy look. The album tells the story of Melvin, a rich man who divorces his wife and takes off on holiday in the Mediterranean, where he seeks happiness but finds only loneliness.

Musically, the entire album is catchy and easy to listen to, with plenty of creative guitar and keyboard tones. The lyrics are melodic and catchy, roughly comparable to the style of Ric Ocasek of The Cars. The album carries echoes of bands such as Pink Floyd, The Eagles, and Steely Dan, but with the psychedelic style and attitude that makes Lewis and the Strange Magics completely one of a kind. Get ready to sink into a velvet sofa and be carried away with the smooth flowing tracks. To help me get a better idea of the band’s song writing process and influences, I caught up with band leader and multi-instrumentalist, Luis Pomés, for the following interview.

The Sonic Sofa (TSS): Can you tell us a little bit about your recording process?

Luis P (LP): For this album we recorded everything in my home studio, with an audio interface to the computer and some microphones. Everything is digital but we tried to find an old/vintage sound.

TSS: What insight can you give us about the album’s lyrics and the Melvin character?

LP: My first intention was to do an album with songs that had a common theme: a summer and decadent atmosphere. I liked this concept and then when I was working on the final steps of the composition I realized that I could connect the songs by creating a character who lives all of the experiences that the lyrics show. So, I created the rich man, Melvin, and I changed some of the words to make a kind of rock opera. I think I got the idea of this concept, among other things, from a Roxy Music song that describes the decadence of a rich person who has a mansion but no one to share it with.

TSS: What is the band’s songwriting process and how does jamming play a part in it?

LP: I write everything in my mind, then I usually record some demos, or I explain the ideas to my band-mates to make a kind of jam. This last process was the one we used in our previous release, The Ginger Sessions EP. Sometimes I record a song without a definitive demo, making the arrangements while I’m recording, and this is why some tracks can have a jam band sensation.

TSS: What are the band’s influences, both musical and otherwise?

LP: All music I enjoy can be an influence, but for this album I think there’s a lot of Roxy Music, Funkadelic, Pink Floyd, Steely Dan, heavy-psych in general, and cult movies from the 70s, both for the general atmosphere of the film or from their soundtracks. For example, the track Carpet Sun is a direct tribute to erotic movies soundtacks from those years, and the whole album is very cinematographic.

“groovy, stylish psychedelic music”

The album opens with Melvin (2:51), a short track featuring hand percussion, smooth organ tones, a crisp drum sound, and some tasty wah pedal. A Funky feel, harmonized vocals, and some jazzy brass tones make this a catchy intro track. Next up, Sad in Paradise (3:48) brings a tight, progressive, fuzzy riff. This track stands out among the others with straight up catchy vocals and a hook-filled chorus. Don’t miss the cool stereo effects of the double guitar lead.

Jazzy drums and organ set the tone for The Answering Machine (2:11), and heavy effects on the vocals and a crisp ride cymbal gives the song a San Francisco jazz feel. Fashion Siren (5:31) has a great sounding snare drum and crisp, Steely Dan-like tones on guitar. Probably one of the catchiest songs on the album, with creative keyboard lines and a funky, eclectic chorus, self-referencing the band’s “Strange Magic” in the lyrics.

Carpet Sun (2:21) features a dreamy intro, with some great layering and effects from the keyboards. Synthy and velvety, this short musical interlude is a nice, reflective break in the action. Following up, Village’s Wizard (4:32) is a nice, percussion heavy track, with easygoing keyboard tones and guitar and a smooth, Latin-jazz feel.

Driving classic-rock riffs and catchy, love song lyrics set the stage for Only a Fantasy (4:13). This track features a great keyboard lead with some interesting scifi-esque tones. Lounge Decadence (2:27) opens with a great bass line and the song employs plenty of Latin style rhythms. And closing the album, Afternoon on the Sand (6:28) starts off soft, with great sounding vocal harmonies before shifting to a swingy, bluesy style to finish off the album.

Melvin’s Holiday is an album that should be listened to straight through, from start to finish, for the full effect. The album is currently available for digital download on Bandcamp, and hopefully we’ll see a vinyl release in the coming months. Make to support the band by listening to their music and buying their merch. Thanks for reading The Sonic Sofa. Go in peace, and rock on, Sofanauts.

Akmé, the Sophomore Heavy-Psych Album by Sageness

Akme, by Sageness

Sageness is a heavy-psych trio that hails from Leon, Spain. The band produces instrumental, psychedelic music with healthy doses of stoner and post-rock. Akmé, their second full length after their self-titled album in 2017, was released on February 23rd. Rich textures and complex arrangements characterize the songs. Ethereal guitar parts overlay in-the-pocket drum and bass grooves. Parts of the album have progressive qualities, and everything on the album is listenable and enjoyable, with the haunting guitar melodies more than taking the place of vocals. Akmé is a great example of a band whose members are synced together and really listen to each other. Their album features beautiful art by Diogo Soares and you can buy the digital album or CD on bandcamp.

“plenty of full-blooded riffs”

Andromeda, the first track, is an easy flowing opener that clocks in at just above seven and a half minutes. The song takes its time to develop up and take form, exploring arpeggiated guitar leads early in the song before developing into plenty of full-blooded riffs later on. Fans of the album Dead Roots Stirring, by Elder, will appreciate the rich guitar tones on this song.

The second track, a nine minute composition entitled The Thought, opens with heavily driving bass, spacey effects and ethereal guitar sounds, while the drums lay down a lively, funky beat that holds the song elements together. The band alternates between jams that allow the song to breathe, and moments of progressive syncopation. Great use of the wah pedal is made later in the song, and there are moments when the guitar leads even have a surfy vibe that is just fun to be carried away on.

Sizigia is the shortest track on the album, clocking in at four minutes and 19 seconds, but what it lacks in length is made up for in catchy guitar hooks and pleasing tones. By contrast the next song, Ephemeral, is the longest song on the album, clocking in at nearly 10 minutes, and is a sprawling track that really should be thought of more as a complex composition, with many transitions, than simply as a song.

“a progressive, post-rock journey”

A thought that crossed my mind continuously while listening to this album was how tuned in the musicians of Sageness are with each other. The next track, Mindbender, is a great example of this. The group takes us on a progressive, post-rock journey. Don’t miss the last half of the song when the track makes a swift turn into a galloping stoner rock riff to finish things off.

The album wraps up with Hydro. Wonderfully melodic guitar leads more than take the place of vocals on this one. The end of the song features some tight drum and bass progressions, over laid by heavy effected guitar lines, with amazing results.

Overall, the album really is a good showcase for these proficient musicians, who are in tune with each other and their craft. It’s tempting to think that on a 42 minute album with no vocalist (not to mention three songs that are over the seven minute mark) the songs might tend to be drawn out and boring, but this can’t be less true. There are plenty of transitions to keep things moving and interesting, and the guitar dramatically takes the place of vocals. Akmé is well worth repeated listens.

March 23 Babylon Leon – Leon, Spain W/ Raw Colors