Magdalena Bay: “El Dorado,” “Turning Off the Rain” & “Afternoon in Heaven”

Magdalena Bay is a DIY pop duo from Los Angeles consisting of singer Mica Tenenbaum and producer Matthew Lewin. The two have been making music together since high school, and have released several records under the Magdalena Bay moniker since 2016. Together, they combine retro synths, funky basslines, bouncey beats, and unbelievably catchy melodies. Their style represents something of a midpoint between nostalgic ’90s dance-pop and hyper-modern experimental electro-pop – an infectious combination. Recently, they unleashed a series of creative, ultra low-budget music videos for a trio of excellent new tracks.

The mantra “less is more” is hardly something that modern pop acts abide by. In this era of Poptimism, gaudy, over-the-top maximalism has become the norm. Which is why Magdalena Bay is such a breath of fresh air. These recent tracks of theirs – “El Dorado,” “Turning Off The Rain,” and “Afternoon in Heaven” – all clock in at under two minutes long – and not a second is sonically wasted. In fact, each song swells and crescendos with unstoppable velocity before ending right at its jubilant peak. It’s an artistic impulse that shows impressive restraint – winding up the listener into an intense fervor before fading out and leaving us desperately craving more. It’s downright hypnotizing.

The newest of those tracks, “El Dorado,” is the most laid-back, with hazy post-chillwave beats propelling Tenenbaum’s soothing croon, along with chirping bird samples and half English/Spanish-sung lyrics. “Every passing cloud is you/ Duele tanto y tanto it hurts when I’m without you,” she sings over an atmospheric guitar riff, full of melancholy and Romantic yearning. Also, the video shows Tenenbaum dressed in a hula skirt, quietly mouthing the lyrics as a cheap screen-saver-like beach backdrop hovers behind her. Meanwhile, upbeat jam “Turning Off The Rain” captures edgy ’90s-style drill synths attached to swirling digital beats. Here, Tenenbaum sings with laser-focused bravado over funk basslines and choppy, anthemic melodies. It’s a frenetic, retro slice of art-pop recalling the playful qualities of Spice Girls or Charli XCX. A DIY Madonna, if you will. Tenenbaum’s cool charisma blares through in the video, in which she dances gleefully over more digitized backdrops that morph and transform in perfect sync with the song.

Finally, the oldest of these tracks, “Afternoon in Heaven” is a grand, sweeping, ’80s-tinged pop ballad with crashing digital samples, lush, towering production, and wistfully inspirational lyrics. It’s short and sweet – with a stratospheric climax bursting with emotions. Furthermore, its Tim and Eric-“Universe”-inspired music video perfectly encapsulates the track’s frolicsome, wondrous and surreal nature. The total lack of budget on any of these videos actually fits with the duo’s unfussy, less-is-more DIY approach. At this stage of their career, they are nailing every sonic and visual beat, and we cannot wait to hear more from them. You can watch all these videos below, and while you’re at it, check out Magdalena Bay’s debut EP Night/Pop, which they self-released earlier this year.

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