Sometimes you have to take your hat off to people or organisations for sticking to their guns. In this case it's Exeter-based singer-songwriter Andy B and Pastime Records, the label which he runs. Devon is an area that you generally have to leave if you want to pursue a career in music - until you've made enough money to return, of course. The bands and artists that Pastime release aren't here for a big paycheck, they're here to make the music they want to make, which, over the course of almost sixty releases, has largely been retro indie (Pastime wears its heart on its sleeve and cites labels such as Sarah Records and the C86 scene as big influences). Having the passion and devotion to continue helping groups from your local scene get their music out there is not to be sniffed at.
Recorded locally and featuring Scott Morrison of cult indiepop band The Morrisons as well as Ishy from The Real Ish Band (both Devonshire acts) on backing vocals and harmonies, 'Magic Numbers' is the fifth solo album from Andy B and its sound comes as no surprise, with the familiar names from 1980s indie being the key inspiration. Ten of the dozen songs clock in at under three-minutes and unnecessary grandeur is nowhere to be found. You can pretty much get a grasp of what you're in for during the opening ten seconds of the aptly-titled first track 'Count To Ten'. These are mostly uptempo tracks with a certain DIY charm, lyrics that say what they mean rather than trying to be too clever, and a backing of guitar, bass, drums, occasional keyboards and vocals. The themes of lost love and looking to previous points in your life with lament are also introduced here, and followed up with the wistful 'Another Rainy Day' (as recently released on the album taster EP of the same name) and then the lonely but lovely 'You Made Your Getaway'.
It's not all Smiths-like misery and what-might-have-beens though, as 'Magic Number' states with delight "I'm finally going somewhere". 'Girl With The Long Brown Hair Part One' sees a slight change in sound as the guitars are painted with an extra coating of fuzz and the slower tempo adds an atmosphere similar to that found on early It's Jo & Danny albums. A second version of the song ('....Part 2') uses the same lyrics and is more in keeping with the other tracks. Perhaps the song that's most indicative of Andy B's style and lyrical themes is 'We Can't Make It Work' (also the title-track of another recent EP of the album's songs). Organ, bobbing bass, lo-fi guitars and forlorn lyrics are all present and correct. However, maybe the best of all is 'Do It Your Own Way'. Not only does it have extra potency thanks to more of that fuzzed-up guitar, but it, knowingly or not, lays bare the manifesto of both label and artist - "do it your own way, doesn't matter what they say", and frankly, that's an attitude it's difficult to argue with.