Album review: Magic Kids' 'Memphis'

Tuesday, August 24, 2010; C03

Magic Kids


On first listen, this debut from Magic Kids sounds like a soda-fountain-sweet collection of breezy sock-hop ditties that draws heavily from the Beach Boys playbook. And while that is all accurate, the album is more than a simple exercise in retro charm. The very young Memphis quintet uses its '60s obsession as a platform to show off a fully realized and immaculately executed pop vision.

Orchestral flourishes sweep in and out but smartly never overpower or overdramatize the songs. Violins and occasional brass aren't used as crutches for emotional heft but are vital elements in achieving a perfect equilibrium, comfortably nestled between Bennett Foster's inviting falsetto, abundant hooks and girl-group harmonies. Whether dealing with giddy glee ("Superball," "Good to Be") or wistful longing ("Summer," "Sailin' "), there's nothing haphazard about the band's concoctions, all as ebullient as they are efficient.

Occasionally "Memphis" teeters on the brink of being precious. The almost onomatopoeic keyboards in "Superball" and some grade-school-worthy love lyrics ("Diamonds and pearls/My steady girl," Foster coos on "Hey Boy") make the sugar rush almost too intense. But the conviction with which the band delivers each tune proves impossible to resist.

Perhaps Magic Kids' best feat is that "Memphis" successfully walks that fine line of achieving a signature sound -- summer vacation stories that are carefree yet carefully crafted -- without offering 11 variations of the same song. It's the latter part of that equation that will likely make Magic Kids worth following once the season changes.

-- David Malitz

Recommended tracks:

"Candy," "Superball," "Hey Boy"

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