I want to deeply dislike Cuddle Magic, not least because of its boringly cute and probably not ironic name. A few years ago, The New Yorker referred to the Brooklyn band as "high-concept chamber pop," which is the kind of label that makes me want to escape into a back alley with a convenience store burrito and a 40 oz. of Mickey's to wash away the taste of pretension. Still, Cuddle Magic is full of talented multi-instrumentalists, and to their credit they seem to be trying at least a little bit to shake that uber-arty reputation.
On their latest album, Ashes/Axis, they use their innovative chops to make some pretty solid and mostly enjoyable pop songs. "Jackie" and "Kiss You" are instrumentally sharp, though lyrically silly without meaning to be. The best tracks manage to bear a resemblance to pop music without feeling dumbed down, like "Spinning" and "Round and Round," both written by band member Benjamin Lazar Davis and Lip Talk's Sarah K. Pedinotti. Another winner is "Slow Rider," a danceable, glitchy MGMT-style song, co-written by Lazar Davis and Lake Street Dive's Bridget Kearney, that almost makes up for some of the band's fatal affectations.
Cuddle Magic opens for Lake Street Dive at the Wilma Tue., Aug. 22, at 8 PM. $27.50–$35.