Night Bus Revival – ‘Tragic Magic’ | EP Review

night bus revival

Night Bus Revival release debut EP Tragic Magic

Tragic Magic is the new EP from Night Bus Revival, a solo project which falls loosely under the alt-folk umbrella but transcends genre musically and lyrically. As its title suggests, it deals in oxymorons. This stunning debut guides us through a conceptual narrative of escape, resentment, love, and the often unwelcome process of becoming grounded.

The EP is a compact yet expansive five tracks. It opens with ‘Nowhere’, a speculative consideration of the desire for total isolation and domesticity, and the contradiction between the two, ‘a kind of pedestrian hedonism’. It feels almost like we’re looking at the couple from Father John Misty’s ‘Chateau Lobby #4 (in C for Two Virgins)’ in a five-year follow up episode. And here’s where they are now! Curled up on a sofa, sewing and watching telly, still hating the same things.

Night Bus Revival maintains a dry cynicism amongst rich melodies. ‘Brand New Estate’ layers this bitterness with sweetness, with a sweeping commentary on loneliness and how this manifests within spaces.

My apathy grows as the timeline just scrolls, JPEG’s and broken memes / Like we need reminding this grand image library’s not harmless as it might seem

A soothing backing of guitar and deep humming strings is unsettlingly beautiful against this saga of disillusionment, a musical representation of how the places we inhabit – be that a flat or a mansion – only create more space for discontentment.

Untitled Christmas Song’ sees the EP dipping into some more overt angst. Low drones give an ominous feel to the middle track – it’s bold, dark and atmospheric, mirroring the feeling of walking home in the dark in a shit mood after a couple of drinks. The end breaks into a dreamlike exit. Interweaving harmonies fuel a witchy, enchanted tone which marks a shift in the narrative. This feels like a moment of realisation or a crack in the veneer. 

We’re only out of the moment for a brief while, because ‘Socks (one way ticket to glorious space death)’ sees a shift back to the domestic. This track muses on relationships and self-perception. The musicality is fairly mellow, maybe even twee, but lyrically there are still some very dark undertones.

The conflicting tug of apathy and anxiety which runs throughout the EP culminates in the gorgeously confessional ‘2:47am on the hotel bathroom floor’. It’s short and sweet; we see a glimpse into something raw (we love the drama). Like in ‘Untitled Christmas Song’,the mask peels away to reveal vulnerability. It’s introspective rather than scrutinising the world around. If society is a simulation, this is where it falters, in a moment of pain, but also catharsis and escape from the expectations of fame and domesticity and success.

The entire EP is lucid in its imagery, through both elaborate song d witty lyricism. The final track is no different, and the music punctuates the narrative; glitchy drums towards the end mark our jittery descent back into reality. Tragic Magic is sharp and conceptual; not a word, or instrumental cue, or weird noise, is wasted. It’s a gorgeous, undulating narrative with a subversive musicality that is both delicate and bold.

Words by Ellen McNally

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