Words by Nathan Cardiff, photos and video by Fally Afani

Ben Sauder branches out from the catchy doo-wop sounds of Dean Monkey & the Dropouts (for which he is the keyboardist) to bring us his hazy, beautiful solo project No Magic. Sauder blends baroque and bedroom pop into a soothing stream of keys and guitar. His voice is as gentle as the strumming guitar on “Porch,” where he declares “I’m sorry I don’t have the time for you…” which he drags into a powerfully heartbreaking delivery, letting the words slowly hit you in the gut. The haunted harmonies are layered and echo throughout the whole record (including the gorgeous opening instrumental “Climbers,” with the light keys bobbing along with the vocals).

The absolute perfect track (in my opinion) is “Summertime Blues.” A few years back I was going through a break-up and this track completely sums up the devastation I felt. It becomes the soundtrack to a refreshing thunderstorm that douses a miserable heat. Sauder sings true and clear, “Under your covers there might be another, that I cannot dare think about/Stumbling through the summer, you have found a lover” while those harmonies continue to lift his voice higher (“That won’t bring you back to me”). “Summertime Blues” transitions as the cool drops fall calmly on “Rain Ghosts;” the mellow pop is lovely and as the sun clears the clouds you can see the horizon and the vastness it holds (“And that mark on your forehead will fade away like dust/The books you read won’t tell you that we’re all made of star stuff/Drifting through the void/Life’s meant to be enjoyed, not feared”).

No Magic ends with the weird folky “Same Old Man” and the saddle-up-and-ride-into-the-sunset beauty of “Dog Fly South.” This closing track is a killer for sure; the melancholic keys and Sauder’s voice are devastating enough, but an added violin (?) really tears it. An unbelievably powerful track that soars right off into the distance. At times No Magic sounds like a project high above us; able to view everything and everyone. And Sauder shares his vision with us.

Favorite Tracks: “Climbers,” “Summertime Blues,” “Rain Ghosts,” & “Dog Fly South”

Words by Nathan Cardiff, photos and video by Fally Afani



Fally Afani is an award-winning journalist with a career spanning more than 20 years in media. She has worked extensively in radio, television, newspapers, magazines, and more.

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