Ah yes, let’s once again thank the magical world of TikTok for some new music. Although I have a running list of artists I’ve discovered via TikTok, this duo has jumped out at me in a way that makes me feel ahead of the curve.
Magdalena Bay, made up of vocalist Mica Tenenbaum and instrumentalist Matt Lewin, is an electro-pop duo from Miami, FL (now based in LA) that makes “synthpop straight from the simulation”, according to their TikTok bio. On TikTok, they also make these absurdist videos that are impossible to watch just once. That’s how I found them, via the algorithm rightfully feeding me content from independent and smaller artists.
I honestly can’t remember what TikTok I saw first, but their playful sense of humor and impeccable throwback visuals made me follow them and then realize they have a catalog of absolute BANGERS. If you’re into Grimes, Charli XCX, and other electro pop artists, you’re gonna love them.
They went viral when a slowed + reverbed version of their song “Killshot” got picked up by someone who made an anime fancam. As someone who is not a fan of anime but had friends in high school who were the presidents of the anime club, I know they are diehard fans and WILL make something tangentially related go viral. It even prompted the band to release an official slowed + reverbed version.
When I heard the original version “Killshot”, I was IN AWE. It’s a dancy, sultry and sexy song that makes you feel like a Bond villain that’s about to charm the pants off of Bond himself. That’s why I included it in my femme fatale playlist. It’s a vibe!
After some TikToks talking with their label (represented by a Kirby plush with angry eyebrows), they hinted that they were working on new music. They released their new song, “Chaeri”, along with a bigger budget music video and an album announcement. “Chaeri” was raved about by Anthony Fantano, Pitchfork, and other critics and even though I didn’t immediately take to it, I thought it was so cool to see them go from their DIY music videos to now picking up acclaim from some heavy hitters.
As they continued to hype up the album, they released their song “Secrets (Your Fire)” and I fully hopped on the Magdalena Bay train. This song is catchy, cheeky, danceable, and somehow nostalgic and fresh. I groove to this song at least once a day, if not more. As the adlibs from Matt in the song say, “this shit’s fire.” IT IS.
They chose their singles so well that by the time their full album Mercurial World dropped, I was FLOORED by the level of thoughtful but groovy pop music I was listening to. Just like their TikToks, they strike a balance between existentially playful lyrics, nostalgic synth sounds, and breathy, delicate vocals by Mica.
The album has such familiar pop sounds to me that their influences are so clear. The title track’s outro even interpolates “Material Girl” by Madonna. One of my favorite tracks from the album and their latest single, “Hysterical Us”, has a catchy Doobie Brothers-esque piano riff that’s impossible to get out of your head. That paired with the creatively existential lyrics “Hysterical us, sucking in oxygen, how did we learn to breathe?” have me in a tailspin. Yeah, I’ve officially lost track of how many times I’ve listened to that song in a row.
I love Magdalena Bay’s ability to take something familiar and beef it up with fresh and innovative synths. They’re not afraid to get into throwback music techniques and synth sounds from the pre-2000s era. We’re living in the era of 2000s throwback trends and Magdalena Bay pairs that beautifully through a futuristic lens. It feels very ahead of the trends but it’s also irresistibly catchy in a way that’s not inaccessible.
Lyrics-wise, they also strike a balance between playful dance pop and existential dread. I cannot even begin how profoundly that appeals to me. I’m finally in the stage where my pre-pandemic life of running off to concerts every week has caught up to me but with my mid-pandemic homebody energy levels. I feel very conflicted because on one hand I want to dance at clubs and meet new people but also, I’m hyper-aware of the reality of death and the finite nature of time. It makes me want to stay home and have dance parties in the comfort of my room some days and other days, it makes me want to strut my stuff in the world. So Magdalena Bay’s music really hits deep on that note.
As I’ve been diving into their catalog this week, I’ve come to the conclusion that they’re like the Carpenters were uploaded into the simulation and downloaded in a .zip file of post-Y2K nostalgia. I’m a big fan and I have no choice but to loudly proclaim my love and admiration for them until they hit your daily playlists too!
U Wanna Dance?
This song gives me all the modern Fleetwood Mac “Tango in the Night” vibes and I am HERE FOR IT. The lyrics range from coy (“I’m the girl when you wanna get down”) to existential (“it’s a fucked up world, are you cool enough to get it?”). There’s even a random Spanish part in the first verse that literally sounds like a missing piece of the iconic “The Ketchup Song”. If you have no idea what I’m talking about, check out Joe’s playlist. This song is some serious musical crack; I will be dancing to this one in my room, in my car, the shower, wherever I can!!
I just have to talk about how GENIUS their new album is. First of all, the last track of Mercurial World is called “The Beginning” and the first track is called “The End”. Second of all, the album is artfully constructed in a way that all the songs lead into one another — I’m a total sucker for that. Third of all, I love how “The Beginning” has this almost 70s variety show musical tone to it. It deceivingly starts the end of the album on a party high but then fades into sonic uncertainty. It’s just a genius track of a genius album.
This short song shows the playfulness of Magdalena Bay best. Something about it reminds me of Doja Cat’s “MOOO!” and it’s just fun to listen to as a result. The hook of this song feels bratty but in that fun, lip gloss sassy 2000s way. Highly recommend for when you’re frustrated with someone.
Can I just first say that I have always felt it’s sacrilegious to do a cover of Childish Gambino’s “Redbone”? That song is too good and too iconic that I just feel like no one can really do it justice. Ok, now that that’s been said, I think this cover is not only allowed and welcome, but VERY APPRECIATED. This is one of those covers that works because you can’t compare it to the original — it’s in a totally different category. Like, DO NOT compare it to Childish Gambino’s version because in my mind, they’re two different songs. Magdalena Bay leans into a variety of synths to create this sonic landscape that only on paper hints at the original song’s construction. I gotta thank Magdalena Bay for truly bringing me into the wonderful world of synths. There’s some wild synths in here and I wanna know what they all are.