If Bermuda were made by any other band, it probably would have surfaced a couple years ago. Following the 2012 release of Strange Heaven, however, surf-garage outfit Mrs. Magician took a break. Guitarist Tommy Garcia moved to New York City, and subsequently returned to San Diego, making their hiatus short lived. The band reconvened with a new album, albeit one that took an unusually long time to arrive.
Bermuda, which bears no similarity or connection to Deafheaven's recently released New Bermuda, pretty much follows the same aesthetic that Strange Heaven did. It's fuzzy, it's jangly, it's fun and just a little bit snotty ("Life sucks! Tough shit!" goes the opening line of "Tear Drops"). It's not a repeat of their debut by any means, however. The production, once again handled by John Reis (Rocket from the Crypt, Drive Like Jehu), sounds crisper and more polished. This is a major plus for a band with their aesthetic. Garage rock should either be fuzzed out beyond recognition or given a proper production job. Middle ground will get you nowhere.
Bermuda starts out strong enough, with "Phantoms" surging with energy and drive, while the four-chord crunch of "Eyes All Over Town" finds Mrs. Magician closer to sounding like Nirvana than ever. But the real gems happen about halfway through the album. "Don't Tell Me What To Do" features one of the band's best melodies, not to mention an organ hook that lends the song some much-welcome color. "Jessica Slaughter," meanwhile, slows down the tempo into a brooding torch song noir. They do slow surprisingly well; it's almost a shame they don't spend more time exploring this kind of shimmering darkness.
Two of the best tracks are saved for the end. "Reborn Boys" finds the band putting aside the surf aesthetic a little bit in favor of something that sounds like a hybrid of Born in the USA-era Springsteen and '90s-era emo. It's a hit as far as I'm concerned. Yet "The Party's Over" closes the record wonderfully with a dense cascade of glossy guitars and synths. It's an impressive, sophisticated close to a record that bears a number of interesting surprises. Though they still have a tendency toward the scrappy and snot-nosed, Mrs. Magician seem to be growing as musicians and songwriters.
Mrs. Magician play Soda Bar on May 21.