When I last caught up with M.A.G.S. (the moniker for Elliott Douglas), his anticipation for his next album Say Things That Matter was utterly infectious. After hearing the rest of the material on this LP, it’s easy to see just why he would be so excited for the rest of the world to hear these songs. From the summer swagger of “Choked Out,” the pop guitar-driven rock brilliance of “Smile,” to the possible best song of his career in “Beg,” all of the singles connected with me on both a personal and spiritual level that I was not originally anticipating. M.A.G.S. is hitting the road this fall on a tour with The Happy Fits and Snarls, and it’s only a matter of time before the masses understand his brilliance in his songwriting.
Say Things That Matter opens casually with the cool guitar groove on “Intro” before we hear M.A.G.S. cool croon on “Smile.” It’s on this brilliant single that Douglas is able to channel summery vibes and great guitar tones on the song that never loses momentum as it unfolds. The well-constructed chorus of, “After I’m gone / You’ll know me / As the one who holds the key / To your heart / Oh my god / Fix that broken smile,” shimmers through the speakers almost instantly.
”Wait” follows the great one-two punch of the introductory songs with some more pop-rock showmanship. The abrasive guitar tones in between the chorus to the verses only speaks to Douglas’s ability to convey a wide range of emotions through his music. “Choked Out” on the other hand plays out like an R&B anthem that mixes up the stylized choices on Say Things That Matter, and reminded me of Bartess Strange on my first few spins. Yet, the more I got to listen to this great single, the more I heard parts of Prince, Hippo Campus, and Walk the Moon into a crowd-pleasing packaged musical delivery.
”Golden” is another one of those songs that you hear for the first time, and just immediately fall in love with the vocals and well thought out song structure. What Douglas does particularly well on this song is to mix up tempos from the verses to the reflective chorus of, “Why would I want to stay the same, when I could be golden / I could be golden / Baby, why are you standing in one place / You’re looking frozen / You could be golden.”
”Beachlove” is a perfect love letter to the carefree days of sitting on a beach, letting the waves crash over our toes, and not having a care in the world of the outside “noise” going in society. It’s eerily reminiscent of the pop-driven vocals found in bands like Ash, while his vocals are very Bruno Mars-esque with the swaying delivery between each lyrical line. And then sandwiched perfectly in the sequencing could be the song most appropriate for any playlist in “Beg.” The casually strummed guitar opener bleeds away perfectly to the ear-pleasing build up chorus of, “And now you’re gonna make me beg / I won’t, you can’t make me say it back / You said don’t go / You can’t make me say it back.” It’s a great love stricken anthem of the most eclectic variety, and you come to realization that M.A.G.S. is not following a blueprint of artists that came before, he’s making his own damn path.
The album never really loses momentum on latter tracks like “Bike,” where Douglas’s vocals continue to be just as impressive as the guitar playing. The production, in general, is much different than M.A.G.S. earlier work, with the vocals being more in the forefront on Say Things That Matter. In my interview with the artist, he described this as more of a self-conscious choice since he grew up having some anxieties about the sound of his vocals. Douglas seems to have cleared that up quickly as he shines all over this record.
The closing trio of “Nostalgia” (that features the great lyric of “fuck your feelings, fuck them all”), the jazzy and atmospheric “Forever,” and the blink and you’ll miss it closer, “Sunrise,” only goes to show the incredible depth that Elliott Douglas conveys on his early career masterpiece, Say Things That Matter. While most of us are just getting around to discovering M.A.G.S., I’d highly recommend catching a hold of this bandwagon before it becomes too full to get a close look at his brilliance.