Majical Cloudz - Are You Alone?

Brennan McCracken shares a close moment with the Montreal duo’s second album.

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During a performance in a Halifax church last week, Majical Cloudz singer Devon Welsh joined his bandmate Matthew Otto on the stage floor to sing their recent single “Silver Car Crash.” Sprawled out with his legs next to him, with one hand propping up his head and the other tightly clutching the microphone, Welsh delivered the song’s verses with little movement and a hesitant demeanour. In a show filled with intense feeling, the duo’s performance of that song provided me with an emotional peak; sitting in the front row of the church pews, I watched Welsh’s eyes scan the room and settle in a stare with a handful of audience members. The performance was a cascade of intimate moments—uplifting at times, unsettling at others, and always completely full of feeling.

Then, as the song neared its end, Welsh’s eyes did another tour of the space before (seemingly) landing in deadlock with mine. And, of course, I cried. Not only because “Silver Car Crash” has helped to soundtrack the emotional tilt-a-whirl of the past two months, and not only because a musician who I love had paid brief attention to me. I cried because, as I continue to oscillate between an outgoing, social persona and an intense desire for quiet, the moment that I locked teary eyes with Devon Welsh was more direct in intent and full in feeling than almost anything else I’ve experienced in a short while. Here was an accomplished human displayed, completely vulnerable, in front of several hundred curious onlookers; here was a singer singing words so true, so direct, with little more than a sparse background of electronics and soft lighting to distract from their meaning. And here I was, reminded through only song and eye contact of the depth of my own emotions.

Most of the songs that I heard that night were pulled from Majical Cloudz’s second LP, Are You Alone?. And the large majority of those songs—save for a couple of singles released before the album—were completely new to me. It felt special to experience them for the first time in such a focused and close environment without any distractions. However, as I have returned to the record in the days since that show, I’ve come to the realization that perhaps this feeling had less to do with the atmosphere in the church and more to do with the potency of this band’s craft. I’ve listened to Are You Alone? almost every night since, and I have come very near to capturing what I felt when I first heard those songs.

The magic of Are You Alone? lies, for me, exactly in that possibility—whether I am alone or among a crowd, its songs have the effect of drawing me away from external worlds of images and distractions and reorienting my focus towards my own experience. Welsh’s lyrics and courage as a performer are surely critical in this accomplishment, but equally important is the beautiful, tectonic sound that Otto quietly shapes in the shadows. This is a brave album—brave in its sparseness, brave in its simple vulnerability—but responding to it feels almost elemental; it’s as if I am being given permission to feel without hesitation, guided by the hands of this very special band.

Are You Alone? is out now via Matador Records.