Following up their self-titled debut, Toronto’s Three Headed Elephant hits the year running with another LP, Queer Magic. What is the project of singer songwriter Wolfgang Barbosa-Rocha, also simply known as Wolfgang, and featuring a rotating list of contributing musicians for each project, the 12-track LP is a sentimental and honest confession, filled with wishes and heartbreak to boot.
Rough around the edges and heavily built from an indie folk stance, Queer Magic lives through Wolfgang’s heartfelt delivery. Lines at times call to the likes of Ian Curtis, where subtle influences of The Smiths can be felt on the second half. There’s a fluid amount of genres dancing with one another on top of a gritty acoustic, all indulging in an organic layer of blues that works elegantly with the artist’s vocals.
Queer Magic reads as an evolution from doubt to assurance, with Wolfgang standing firm in their discovery, from self to everyday emotions. Opening with “Fantasia,” the roughness points at an overlooked pain, but is washed to a better place due to the track’s overall warmth. It opens the LP up to vulnerability and embraces all the dreams held onto, sweetly sung with a duality of vocals.
Heartbreak runs rampant on “From the Ashes” which seems to unknowingly bleed into “Heartache,” both featuring a lo-fi, gritty acoustic production that sadly loses focus and is revisted towards the end of the LP on “The Dogs Howl at Night.” Though, staying in this raw sound, “One Loves More than the Other” is a better built broken-heart ballad, swooning from the rustic twang of blues and Wolfgang’s deep croon.
After the cathartic release of tracks in the first half, things pick-up by “Sunshine.” It’s a soulful declaration filtered through a more tangible production for a very dusty feel. It’s a personal favorite and grows beautifully into a tender, bluesy love letter. And just like its name, golden rays peak effortlessly on the lengthy track, guided by dreamy vocals.
An air of assertiveness is welcomed on “Wild Thing” alongside a fuller instrumentation. This is a track that is surprising on the LP, but in the best possible way. Echoing the sounds from a dark lit venue with the soul of new wave, “Wild Thing” stands tall and firm in its belief. Sharp drum hits eventually roll over towards a state of calamity and compliment the next, and another favorite track, “You’ll Never How Much I Love You.” The skids of drums flourish the steady off-beat time scheme and Wolfgang’s matter-of-fact vocals. They showcase more of their vocal stylings on this track and simply makes one fall in love — an only assumed triumphant feat.
Sitting comfortably near the end is the album’s title track. A spoken word declaration reiterating Wolfgang “knows who the fuck I am.” Frank in its honesty, the words are somehow still calm over a distorted, trance loop. Seemingly built in pairs, “High on Shrooms Excerpt” follows as an instrumental interlude. The almost 2-minute track paints a scene character wise, versus sonically, yet is a nice ambient break.
On the album, we can hear the artist develop their sound and voice. The LP retains its form throughout the majority of its duration with a couple of production surprises and listens as a nostalgic daydream, aptly shown on the album’s closer “Blow Out the Candles.” The track haunts the heart similarly to Morrissey’s tone, and leaves a listener wanting more from Three Headed Elephant. It’s clear that there’s so much more magic to be heard from the artist and Queer Magic adoringly promises from future releases.
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