The Magician is a far cry from the balding “illusionist” that probably showed up at your eighth birthday party. Though he has been known to bust out a card trick or two at his live shows, Nathan Moes (and his new backing band the Gates of Love) are the real deal.

Drawing noticeable influence from Belle & Sebastian, the Unicorns, Ben Folds and the Flaming Lips, the Langley quintet’s follow-up to Moes’ debut EP Who Will Cut the Grass When I’m Gone? is a work of honest showmanship, sans smoke and mirrors.

“Banner Year” begins with regal trumpet trills and accelerating piano keys, building up to a harmonized choral arrangement that might make Brian Wilson smile. After a short intro courtesy of an electric organ and egg shaker, “A Gentleman’s Harvest” busts out the record’s catchiest croon: “Oh, you don’t even know.”

“The Lions” is a half-whispered lament followed by the theatrical, sway-inducing storytelling of “Take a Trip.” All four tracks burst with character despite straightforward arrangements. The singles, available for download at $2 apiece, anticipate the release of the band’s forthcoming full-length album in 2011.

Published October 2010.

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