Magic Kids ‘Memphis’ – Review

1 Sep

It’s been a pretty gloomy summer all in all, what with the grey clouds over here and floods elsewhere; Katy Perry may have been at number one with  a song called ‘California Girls’ but this wasn’t a Beach Boys summer by any stretch of the imagination. Enter Magic Kids, a group of young musicians from Tennessee whose express aim is to make you happy (according to the band ‘any song that makes you sad is bad music’). Their weapons of choice are Walt Disney Strings, girl group style harmonies, and spoonfuls of melodic sugar. If you need some sunshine in your life then stick on ‘Memphis’ (just make sure you put on the sunscreen first).

The songs on the album fall into two categories, there are the catchy upbeat numbers and the more sophisticated slow songs. ‘Hey Boy’ and ‘Superball’ are easily two of the catchiest things you will hear all year, you will be humming them all day after listening to them. New songs ‘Phone’ and ‘Candy’ are nearly as brilliant/annoying and even the b-side ‘Good To Be’ should come with a health warning for being so addictive. The songs recall the music Brian Wilson and The Beach Boys were making just before ‘Pet Sounds’, or Van Dyke Parks at his most basic, and there is also an element of early 70’s power pop. Still, The Magic Kids sound very relevent and contemporary, they are best buddies with Girls and The Smith Westerns, and they aren’t a world away from those bands stylistically, although they have a much more polished sound. The music is complimented by Ben’s vocal style, which is a strange cross between Brian Wilson’s falsetto and Elvis’s famous quiver (as a child he was an Elvis impersonator).

Lyrically the songs deal with the classic themes of young love and heartbreak, but whilst they are knowingly childlike and bubblegum (‘There’s no candy sweeter than my baby’) there is something enduring about the innocence. The eye for detail that pins down each song however makes these lyrics anything but banal and clinched, on ‘Sailin’ for example we are instantly in the scene, on a boat with ‘the sea breeze cooling the air with a mystery’.  And despite their claims to make only happy music, there is an element of sadness in the words that adds depth to the cheery music. Overall it’s simple, old-fashioned and surprisingly well written.

‘Memphis’ may be the soundtrack to a summer that never happened, but it’s made the final week of August that bit brighter. Clocking in at under half an hour the album is a short and sweet musical extravaganza that justifies the early hype surrounding the band, overall it’s one of the best debuts of the year. It can’t help but be sugary sweet, and it won’t be everyone’s cup of tea (cynics and metal heads avoid!) but honestly if you don’t like this on some level you don’t have a heart.



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