In terms of unexpectedly mixed moods, the opening of the title track from Magen Tracy’s ‘At My Age’ digital EP really makes an impression. The intro shares a bright sounding guitar riff, cast from some classic rock pop sounds, which almost immediately brings an expectation of a similarly perky vocal. Instead, the listener is greeted with a much deeper tone, and an almost dour melody where Tracy appears to be channelling Marianne Faithfull circa 1979.

Given a few lines to adjust, though, it’s clear that the performer – as well as handling a very retro sounding jangly guitar more than competently – has a great voice. By the mid point of the opening verse, everything sounds incredibly natural. Magen’s vocal not only shares a distinctive tone, but also compliments the music brilliantly, whilst the track’s lyric takes a leap into something even more thoughtful. In three minutes, the number explores the rolling back of abortion laws in the US and the idea that the performer has reached middle age, but currently has fewer life choices than she actually had as a seventeen year old, whilst the music builds into a punchy tune that sounds almost timeless. With a big sounding, harmony loaded chorus, a wordless hook, and a final verse where the rock-pop actually introduces a slight country lilt, and an increased anger where the performer offers to “burn everything down” to allow a future self a world of free choice, this almost sounds fit to burst, in the most brilliant way.

The download is rounded out by a couple of older tunes, but both further show off a great talent, and provide a handy way to get up to speed with an artist you’ve likely missed. ‘Harder Girl’ – originally released in 2016 – is top tier Magen Tracy. The arrangement takes a swaggering rhythm, a brilliant electric piano groove and a light country rock melody and weaves something that could’ve easily been inspired by the rootsy rock bands of the 90s, or even a deep cut on an early Sheryl Crow disc. It’s one of those numbers that’s as much a showcase for The Missed Connections as it is for Magen herself, with a great combo of riffs and harmonies fleshing out a light country-ish melody and more evidence of a tight band at work. Factor in a huge sounding lead guitar that sounds as if it were pulled from a Connells recording circa 1996, and this song becomes a melting pot of familiar influences, yet at the same time conveys an enthusiasm and natural flair that elevates everything above mere recycling.

‘Sweethearts’ shares a little more of a country melody at its heart – something that becomes very obvious during another sizeable guitar solo – but has enough grit to appeal to people who mightn’t usually connect with the genre. The lead guitar cries effortlessly against a mid tempo arrangement, creating an ear-catching intro, but its when venturing into slightly rootsier territory for the verse that things really take shape. Tracy adopts a confident croon, and when augmented by electric and acoustic guitars, occasional piano and some great harmonies, she gives listeners something that falls squarely between a rockier Mary Chapin Carpenter, and The Missed Connections’ Rum Bar label-mate Cindy Lawson. You’ll find punchier tunes from Magen deeper within her catalogue, but when used as a primer for first time listeners, this is still a very strong number, since it shows her ability to straddle different genres with ease.

Despite these three tracks being drawn from three different parts of Magen’s musical past, they fit together almost seamlessly; each one is a great vehicle for her voice and songwriting, but also for solid musical arrangements. With equal parts rock, country and pop, the Missed Connections’ commercial brand of Americana could belong in any era within the previous thirty years, and from anywhere far beyond their Boston heritage. Simply put, this trio of songs represents some great adult oriented sounds you won’t want to miss.

November 2023