It's easy to write Magic Kids off as just another indie-pop band in an increasingly overcrowded field. They came to national attention via MP3 blogs; their debut album is being jointly released by Matador and True Panther Sounds; they're mentioned alongside Brian Wilson and Belle & Sebastian; and, presuming their promotional video wasn't shot on Halloween, they take their fashion cues from the Bedford Avenue bohemians. But the Memphis, Tenn., outfit is "indie" only in the sense that, on their stunning debut LP, they manage to make the grandest songs imaginable seem like they were composed with only you in mind.
When the Magic Kids appeared seemingly out of nowhere in late 2009 with their single “Hey Boy,” they were out of step with the big trends sweeping through indie pop. The innocent jangle and child-like glee found in the grooves had nothing to do with chillwave, lo-fi, beach pop or C86 revival. Instead the Memphis-based band reached back to the classic sunshine-y pop of the Beach Boys and Jan & Dean, the goofy, happy pop of bands like Herman's Hermits and more recently, the anything-goes inventiveness of the Elephant 6 collective (only without the drugs).
It’s probably inevitable, but a bit gloomy nonetheless, that as I’ve edged further into my twenties, and as I begin to lurch ever more rapidly towards their conclusion, my tolerance for anything even remotely youthful-sounding has waned significantly. This presents something of a quandary when it comes to attempting to critically appraise Memphis, the debut album by Magic Kids, because youthfulness is something which positively oozes out of every pore of the record. I must soldier on, though, because it really isn’t their fault that I’m seethingly envious that they retain the lustre which deserted me long ago.
Something to consider when considering Magic Kids: the SuperBall, the enduring children's toy which served as a muse to this group's equally bouncy single of the same name, was invented by Norman H. Stingley in 1965. The Beach Boys dropped Pet Sounds in May of 1966. Wham-O sold over six million SuperBalls by December of that year, and Pet Sounds will forever remain, in these halls and elsewhere, a Really Big Deal.
Since when did showy enthusiasm become such a faux pas? There’s something about gleeful artists. You know, the ones whose intentions are to eagerly express that much needed everyday joy without even the slightest rationale. Holding a very appropriate band name, Magic Kids spread enchanting serotonins to induce high levels of happiness with their constant bouts of ritualistic chamber pop.
Tennessee pop sprites prove more than just Beach Boys copyists. Johnny Sharp 2010 If Brian Wilson received royalty payments every time a band listed The Beach Boys as an influence, he would probably be up there with Bill Gates on the global rich list. But while the sound of this Tennessee five-piece is hardly shimmering with originality, few have imitated those sunny falsettos and sweet’n’sad melodies quite so irresistibly.
Memphis sextet [a]Magic Kids[/a] started out in the midst of the city’s celebrated garage-punk scene, but you’d hardly know it on the basis of this airheaded and obsessively nice-ified debut album. They do airheaded and nice to a tee, mind: [b]‘Hey Boy’[/b], 2009’s hype-accruing debut single, is about as good as polka-dot cupcake indie is gonna get in 2010, sounding like either Grandaddy timewarped into C86, or a shame-free Beach Boys homage. This latter element is returned to more than once across the album’s duration (29 minutes and outtahere), with songs such as [b]‘Skateland’[/b] benefitting from micro-orchestral flourishes and simple, careful production.
Even though Hanson broke out at South by Southwest, Magic Kids aims for some of that Okie mojo with the FX3 demographic. The Memphis-based, mixed-gender sextet stuffs 11 originals into its debut, a backpack of a recording fitted neatly together, stacked like schoolbooks with such forever-young titles as "Skateland," "Cry With Me Baby," "Little Red Radio," and "Candy." As tight and well-rehearsed as any camp band, the Kids' real magic lies in their unsullied embrace of 1960s pop and garage rock with a modern teen sensibility. "Hey Boy" is splashed with such pronounced Beach Boys-style harmonies, it will carry the endless summer vibe through the winter.