Greatest hits: album reviews

Album of the Week: 'Magic Hour' by Luscious Jackson

PUBLISHED : Sunday, 17 November, 2013, 3:51pm
UPDATED : Friday, 17 April, 2015, 4:52pm

Magic Hour
Luscious Jackson
City Song

Tired of subtext? Luscious Jackson promise relief. The songs on the band's new album, Magic Hour, offer amiable grooves and simple, straightforward tidings: "You and me, we got something good," the members sing in You and Me. The upward-swooping synthesiser line of Aaw Turn It Up immediately places it in a club, where a mutual flirtation ensues: "When she sees him on the dance floor/She wants to do things she'll regret," Gabby Glaser raps.

OK, there's a little subtext. Magic Hour is Luscious Jackson's first album in 14 years.

The band solidified in 1991 when Kate Schellenbach, the original drummer for the Beastie Boys, joined three other women: Jill Cunniff (bass and lead vocals), Glaser (guitar and backup vocals), and Vivian Trimble (keyboards).

With a casual charm that belied the ingenuity of their music, their songs mingled conversational rapping, airy hooks and harmonies and grooves that dipped into funk, reggae, disco and rock. One of their songs, Naked Eye, grazed the top 40 in 1996; after releasing their third album in 1999, Luscious Jackson disbanded.

Magic Hour returns to the idiom-hopping nonchalance of the band's 1990s heyday, from the African-tinged funk of You and Me and Are You Ready? to the Beasties-ish rap-rock of Show Us What You Got to the blipping electropop of Frequency, which asks the eternal question: "Is it serious or are we just dancing?"

Magic Hour doesn't discourage nostalgia for an era of teasing, non-bombastic dance music. But it doesn't depend entirely on nostalgia either: there's always another catchy refrain on the way.

Jon Pareles (The New York Times)