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). “Hey Boy” sounded like it could have been a radio hit in 1965, well-produced, endlessly catchy and full of life, and it seemed like a hard act to follow. Their next single “Superball” was almost as good, adding some ramshackle energy and kick to their sound and building expectations for their album to almost unreasonable levels. Luckily, Memphis comes through like a dream. It includes both "Hey Boy" and "Superball" and as a testament to how good the album is, they fit into the overall picture instead of being highlights. All eleven songs are tiny symphonies of sweetly sung, perfectly arranged pop that fit together like puzzle pieces and result in a completely satisfying listening experience. The group prove themselves adept at creating heart-breakingly fragile ballads (“Hideout”), rollicking feel-good rockers (“Skateland”), and bubblegummy love songs (“Sailin”), but excel at bouncing, giddy songs that sound like smiles (“Hey Boy,” “Radio,” “Little Red Radio”). Fronted by Bennett Foster's boyish vocals and filled in by all kinds of keys, horns and voices, the group gets a full and impressively rich. Foster and keyboardist Will McElroy produced the record and they prove masterful at capturing a intimate sound that weaves together many elements but always sounds clear and direct. Amazingly, the duo doesn’t use reverb much, preferring a clean sound that jumps through the speakers and suits the songs perfectly. Memphis is the most thrilling debut album since the Apples in Stereo's Fun Trick Noisemaker and should be embraced by anyone who likes pop music that sounds small but thinks big. These kids truly have some magic in them.
AllMusic Review by Tim Sendra