Harlem Shakes – Technicolor Health

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Rating: ★★★½ ·

Every once in a while you walk across a band with a little bit of a reputation, and very little else.  This is where you come across Harlem Shakes, a band that has been slowly climbing the indie-pop ladder rung by rung.  Their new album, Technicolor Health, will only encourage more people to climb upon their back as they aim to reach the top.

Opening the album, you’ll find that various electronic elements are crawling all over the first song, much the way that they crawl all over the entire album. But, these little bleeps and blips grab more urgency when the rest of the band kicks in, throwing horns and guitar into the mix.  It’s an eclectic sound to say the least, but they manage wrangle it all together in an effort to create pop gems.

Singer Lexy bares a strong resemblance to the vocal registry of John K Samson of The Weakerthans, especially in “Strictly Game,” though just as you start to hear that in his voice, it changes directions.  This is precisely one of the elements of this album that allows listeners to maintain their interest, as the band takes turn after turn through their pop repertoire, leaving nary a stone unturned.  The entire kitchen sink has been nicely set in this album, and yet it still all sounds remarkably charming.

Some of the songs are downright destined to encourage you to shake your boots, but then there are other moments that seem to show a certain bit of restraint.  “Niagra Falls” appears to pay homage to a bit of classic rock elements, and one might even say shares a missing link with Clap Your Hands Say Yeah, back when they were still good.  The piano laden track bubbles gently beneath the surface of your ear drum, drifting off quietly just before it gets annoying.

Such seems to be the story of the band.  What once would be considered overbearing self-indulgence in instrument usage is restrained just enough so as not to appear as such.  Just as you think it all begins to get to be a bit too much, the band pulls it all back in, honing their skills in the craft of restraint. Your left with a great sense of respect, as the combination of such instruments never seems to be entirely too much, though looking at the inclusion of these things would lead you think otherwise.

Everything here is simpler than one expects, which is how this band will win you over.  They’ve created an album full of songs that push your boundaries of listening, yet draw you in with catchy melodies and clever lyrics.  At times, it might be a bit much for the listener due to the overabundance of sounds, but like the band, you should show restraint, and give this album a proper chance, as repeated listening provides for great rewards.

[audio:http://austintownhall.com/wp-content/uploads/2009/03/04-niagara-falls.mp3]

Download: Harlem Shakes – Niagra Falls [MP3]

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