Magic Kids – Memphis

Rating: ★★★½☆

Who thought that true twee pop went away and died?  Well, if it did, the word certainly didn’t reach the Memphis group Magic Kids.  Their new album, cleverly titled Memphis, is full of that old fashioned bounce and melodic shuffle that adorned some of the greatest indie albums of all time.  That being said, this record is good, though probably not quite on the list of all time greats.

“Phone” does throw some musical allusions around, though the one that sticks with me, at least in regards to instrumentation is Beulah. It’s got emphatic horns riding the crest of jangle guitars.  Backing vocals provide a nice warmth that fans of only the best indie pop will appreciate, and the strings continue with that nostalgic nod. But, “Candy” has a much more current spin on pop music, using a driving rhythm and male/female vocal tradeoff moments to create a saccharin sweetness destined to give your ear some serious cavities.

“Superball” is a good listen, though the best moments are the rising and falling melodies in between verse and chorus.  Something about it gives it a touch of adolescence, and that goes beyond the reference to the childish toy in the title.  Then, the group suddenly switches pace on the listener, giving the rest of Memphis a mellower twist.  Songs like “Summer” demonstrate the depth of the group as a whole, layering the various elements of the group carefully, creating a much stronger sound.  Perhaps it’s the arrangement, or the change in pace, but you can extract more emotion from the latter half of the record, though the first three tracks are still quite enjoyable.

Still, “Hey Boy” signifies a band well versed in hooks.  It begins with the female vocal entry, coming in quite playfully, but then it takes on a little bit of pace, using electronic touches, and a rolling drumbeat to take you on a summery trip full of good times.  Similarly, songs like “Sailing” carry a wave of bounce into the audience’s ear, although not with the same amount of whimsy that was applied to earlier songs on Memphis.  There is a certain sense of maturity with the craftsmanship on the latter-half of the album, even though playful elements like handclaps are still apparent.  They’re not really giving up on the tried and true tradition of twee, rather they’re actually making their own adjustments as a group, building their own sound.

In the end, Magic Kids have created a really strong debut album, and it’s one that will provide listeners with endless pleasure, which seems to redeem itself the more and more you absorb Memphis.  If you just put aside the first three songs, you’d have a really consistently fun record of great hooks and solid melodic moments, but you don’t want to discard those songs either.  They’re catchy, but in their own way.  Some might take a listen to this and claim to see the band growing up before your ears, and that’s a valid point, as the songs clearly progress in a more meaningful manner as the album goes one.  That being said, you’ll want to listen to it all anyways, as it’s just plain good fun.

[audio:http://austintownhall.com/wp-content/uploads/2010/08/03-Superball.mp3]

Download: Magic Kids – Superball [MP3]