• Ryan Hope

'Magdalene' by The 502's: Rambunctious Indie Folk is Hard To Ignore

Self-described “rambunctious indie folk” band The 502’s struck viral fame with their single ‘Magdalene’, perhaps the groups most refined version of their up-tempo and uproarious sound. The iconically boisterous, feel-good energy is mostly present here - however ‘Magdalene’ has an eerily sombre tone for the Florida-based band’s typically untroubled exuberance.

The opening ethereal backing vocals perfectly encapsulate the notion of losing “the ghost of a girl”, the spacious and reverberate production makes it difficult not to draw comparisons to The Lumineers’ ‘Ophelia’, another example of name-titled folk balladry; which, coincidentally, also features a half-time piano riff driving the hook. Their bluegrass arrangements of piano, banjo and horns make them sonically comparable to those familiar with Edward Sharpe and the Magnetic Zeroes. Despite the similarities with their contemporaries, The 502’s fervorous attitude towards their performance is what sets them apart. With runaway piano passages and hollered backing vocals, the band radiates a vibrant and passionate enthusiasm that is hard to ignore.

At times the instrumentation feels cluttered, with sections coming in and out seemingly at will without any regards for their impact; which is arguably part of their iconic unruly style. However, this rowdiness mildly detracts from the downcast yet quick-witted lyrics that could perhaps be better served by less muddled production. It would be unfair to mention that most of these problems are resolved in the live version of the single, where instrumentation feels aptly organised, just enough to withstand losing the unrestrained 502 energy.

Lyrically, the group display mounds of intelligence, with sharp lines about being “no good at good, no good at goodbyes”. The ingenious double entendre “keep the shirts I left at your place, they’ll do nothing for me now except dress me in pain” exemplifies the talented songwriting capabilities that might go unnoticed behind their bombastic performative style. Magdalene is a stand-out single and deservedly the most popular of those released from their new album, 'Could It Get Better Than This’. Despite their shortcomings, they’re undeniably likeable and carry a contagious energy that I’m yet to find anywhere else.