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Kiley Lotz (aka Petal) delivered a fuzzed-out set of heartfelt and heartbroken indie rock gems on her excellent 2015 debut, Shame. No stranger to anxiety and depression, Lotz's invigorating blend of 90's alt-rock, dream pop, and punk proved to be the perfect balm for those dark nights of the soul, and she makes great use of that formula again on her superb sophomore effort, Magic Gone. If Shame was the fourth stage of grief (depression), then Magic Gone signifies acceptance, fueled in part by the fact that Lotz came out as queer in the interim between the two releases. Magic Gone echoes that journey to self-acceptance beautifully, with all of the highs and lows accounted for. As inward-looking as her particular brand of overcast indie rock can be, she possesses a relatability and a knack for crafting delicious earworms that render even the most painful admission or rumination a small joy to ingest, evoking the wry vulnerability of Phoebe Bridgers and the hooky pop acumen of Lucy Dacus. That rich fusion of melody and mood is at its most intoxicating on Magic Gone's opening volley. "Better Than You" and "Tightrope" impress right out of the gate, the former a windows-down power pop pleaser and the latter a laid-back yet no less hook-laden stunner that houses one of the album's most cathartic lyrical moments ("I felt an ancient scream come out of my mouth"). Instead of doubling down on the muscle, Lotz dials back the decibels on the ensuing "I'm Sorry," "Comfort," and "Shy," all of which are as intimate arrangement-wise as they are tonally austere. Things pick up again on the slow-burning title cut, which perfectly distills the warm ache of a first crush in just over four minutes, and again on the soaring closer, "Stardust," a big, open-hearted love song that builds to the kind of sweeping refrain ("under streetlight, you are forever mine") that should help launch a thousand new relationships.
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