There is something almost dishonest in the sparkling good cheer that pervades Sparky’s Magic Piano. Even on those rare songs where dark emotions lurk beneath the frothy surface- ‘Coffee Song’ and ‘You Like Her’ both deal with unrequited or frustrated desire- neither vocalist Marion nor multi-instrumentalist Pob dare to depart from their twee pop blueprint.
Fans of Belle and Sebastian, Japanese computer game music enthusiasts and those nostalgic for C86 and Sarah Records will adore this album. For a debut album, Feel the Beat has an assured production and a melodic sweetness that rivals St. Etienne: apart from the occasional vocal stretch, both Marion and Pob invest their disposal tunes with a winning sincerity. Yet it seems impossible that such sophisticated musicians could inhabit a world so summery and light, skipping to the memories of childhood cartoons and endless afternoons. And despite being a short album, it doesn’t sustain repeated listens, lacking much depth or variety.
There are a few moments of inspiration: ‘Something Somewhere’ overcomes a vague lyric to be a genuinely strange fusion of guitar pop and eight bit, and ‘You Like Her’ becomes all the more melancholy because of the cheerful delivery. Feel the Beat is one for the fans of classic, concise pop rather than the explorers of intensity and experiment- and its charm makes it hard to dislike for too long.