Posted November 28, 2007 by Listen Up in Music

Any record that opens with foot stomps, handclaps, and humming can’t be bad.

The Simple Life, the debut album from Norwegian singer-songwriter Evan Johansen, who bills himself as Magnet, might not be an opus, but it’s far from bad. Chock-full of contemporary folk angst and nonlinear rhythms, The Simple Life is a fairly convincing piece of pop dynamism. Think Beck minus the cleverness.“The Gospel Song” is propelled by smooth melodic grace, along with a happy little harmonica line that teases Johansen’s crooning, “With your heart in the future and your head in the past / There’s nothing in between that’s gonna last.” His arrangement skills are in full flower on “Navigator,” a track built entirely from marimba and xylophone notes.

Although Johansen’s creativity is abundantly displayed throughout, the album has some flaws, mainly too many moments of forced emotion. “Count” rises among a beautiful bed of string parts and a haunting main melody, but trite lyrics and falsetto singing bring it down to cornball, Coldplay-ish territory. Johansen’s vocals are pleasant enough and even pretty at times but can also seem a bit generic and unoriginal. All is redeemed, however, on the closing track, “Lucid,” with its wide-open sound (a la Ryan Adams’ Love Is Hell or Radiohead’s quieter tunes) and simple, sweet melody. Johansen/Magnet needs to mature as a writer, but his aptitude for arrangements and melody are definitely already there. The Simple Life is surely worth a listen, even though it’s just a small sample of Evan Johansen’s awesome potential. — Joshua Loewen

 The Simple Life


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