Artist of the Week: Harlem Shakes

Technicolor Health begins with a retro-fitted hum (in the tune of 8-bit) that soundly gets smashed with a crunching combination of kick drum and guitar. Sometimes I like to envision that hum as the faces of Vampire Weekend, and Harlem Shakes delivering a one-two pop-punch.

In other reviews you’ll inevitably stumble across that connection, and admittedly, there is a slight one. But something is missing from those criticisms, and it prevents me from hitching a ride on that particular bandwagon. It allows me to get down with the Shakes instead.

In the aptly named “Nothing But Change Part II” (the song with said hum), the Brooklyn fivesome never stays in one spot for too long. The song starts off as an effervescent pop potion, then happy horns (reminiscent of The Rumble Strips) are added to the mix. Before you know it, the handclapping has commenced and the chorus is chiming in, both sounding sweeter than the buzzer after a game-winning shot. But as wholesome as this no doubt sounds, the lyrics paint a far different picture. “Sleepless people know/ Don’t leave before you go.” The ending brings you back to daylight, however, with a “take it home” melody that Dorothy could have whistled whilst skipping on down that ol’ yellow brick road.

We live in an age of biting blogs, where multiple mentions causes the hype machine to escalate at an obscene rate. It would have been easy for Harlem Shakes to sell it in early with their self-recorded Burning Birthdays EP. Luckily, however, the band recognized their own limitations, or at least the lyrics seem to suggest so. “Somehow pop just feels so fair/ In this tangled, injured air/ And I know I’m just some singer,” is a good example, with a better one in “Strictly Game” that goes,  “Make a lot of money/ Take a lot of shit/ Feel real bad/ and get over it.”

“Pop” is usually a seething word, looked down upon in credible circles, and even I am guilty of sneering at anything Jonas-related. We chide these things as poppy, yet these are the same elements found within Technicolor Health. It’s back to form ya’ll, with Brian Wilson-era pop we can celebrate, served with a heaping side of sunshine. Three cheers for Harlem Shakes.

-Phil


Upcoming live shows:

May 19  Fine Line – Minneapolis, MN
May 23  The Biltmore – Vancouver, British Columbia
May 24  Wonder Ballroom (with Passion Pit) – Portland, OR
May 26  Bimbo’s 365 Club (with Passion Pit) – San Francisco, CA
May 28  Troubadour (with Passion Pit) – Los Angeles, CA
May 29  Echoplex (with Passion Pit – Los Anguluz, CA
May 30  Glasshouse (with Passion Pit – Pomona, CA
May 31  Sail Inn (Benefit for EAR CANDY) – Tempe, AZ

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