“Magic Hour” (City Song)
Tired of subtext? Luscious Jackson promises relief. The songs on its new album, “Magic Hour,” offer amiable grooves and simple, straightforward tidings: “You and me, we got something good,” the members sing in “You and Me,” adding, “La, la, la, la, la.” In “#1 Bum,” they praise someone’s rump: “Bum, bum, bum, bum, show it to me now you’re the one.” The upward-swooping synthesizer line of “Aaw Turn It Up” immediately places it in a club, where a mutual flirtation ensues: “When she sees him on the dance floor/She wants to do things she’ll regret,” Gabby Glaser raps.
O.K., there’s a little subtext. “Magic Hour” is Luscious Jackson’s first album in 14 years. The band solidified in 1991, when Kate Schellenbach, the original drummer for the Beastie Boys, joined three other women: Jill Cunniff (bass and lead vocals), Ms. Glaser (guitar and backup vocals) and Vivian Trimble (keyboards).
With a casual charm that belied the ingenuity of the music, Luscious Jackson’s songs mingled conversational rapping, airy hooks and harmonies and grooves that dipped into funk, reggae, disco and rock. One of its songs, “Naked Eye,” grazed the Top 40 in 1996; after releasing its third album in 1999, Luscious Jackson disbanded. The women regrouped to record a children’s album in 2007, but didn’t release it. Minus Ms. Trimble, the other three band members decided to make an album for adults and got crowdfunding through PledgeMusic for “Magic Hour.”
So there may well be a subtext for “You and Me,” and there’s definitely one for “We Go Back,” which reminisces about growing up together and concludes — in a rocker with a touch of “Gimme Shelter” — “We go back but we can’t go back/but we can go on.” That — and “3 Seconds to Cross,” a song that complains about the brevity of traffic lights in Los Angeles — are as earnest as the album ever gets. The rest of “Magic Hour” returns to the idiom-hopping nonchalance of the band’s 1990s heyday, from the African-tinged funk of “You and Me” and “Are You Ready?” to the Beasties-ish rap-rock of “Show Us What You Got” to the blipping electropop of “Frequency,” which asks the eternal question, “Is it serious, or are we just dancing?”
“Magic Hour” doesn’t discourage nostalgia for an era of teasing, non-bombastic dance music. But it doesn’t depend entirely on nostalgia, either; there’s always another catchy refrain on the way. JON PARELES