A Rogue Rewind: Harlem – Hippies

by The Insomniac

Top Tracks: Someday Soon, Friendly Ghost, Three Legged Dog, Spray Paint

The fact that this album exists may not be news but I dug this up from a dark corner in Spotify and felt like I had the responsibility to share.

The album is called Hippies, recorded by Harlem and released by Matador Records in 2010. This is simply an awesome garage rock record, everything this genre should be. Garage bands are usually plagued by not having many resources to record and produce their work, resulting in more lo-fi output, an element which lends itself perfectly to a genre that prides itself on fuzzy, distorted imperfection. There are no highly polished effects or other crutches here to lean on – the only way to catch someone’s attention is to break through the muffled static and show some true colors. The lo-fi garage sound is one that does away with the crisp preciseness that comes with new technology and high quality production studios (see The Strokes’ last two bleh LPs and see what I mean). The result is a single organism of sound forced through a small band of frequency making it difficult to emanate a tune that resonates with anyone.

This LP is an example of how true passion and energetic angst can break through this challenge and strike a chord that will be stuck in your head for days. These guys love what they do and seem to find a connection with the music that goes beyond simply playing instruments well. Though Harlem hasn’t surfaced in a few years with any releases, the echo of these big-hearted rockers can still be heard on Hippies.

Your initial impression will be a surf-rock attitude that persists through the whole album. Following the route of classic beach bands from the past, the tracks are short-winded (usually coming in at around 2 minutes) and are devoted to girls that got away, leaving blue balls and broken hearts in their wake. Stunted, repetitive, yet catchy riffs drown in distortion and reverb underneath the screaming and follow the angsty erratic churn of emotions spilling from Harlem – “spilling” fits as it seems these guys, despite the short track lengths, cover a lot of moods each song, following whatever intense memory or feeling that bubbles up with greater and greater vigor. This results in constantly changing tempos which end in a slow bluesy Bayou-melancholy to close out this pleading, heartfelt record.

Who’s to blame? “I met the girl of my dreams, she was down in New Orleans” It could be her, or maybe any of the others mentioned on Hippies, so I guess I’ll give thanks to all the heart-breakers out there.

SZA – Child’s Play ft. Chance the Rapper

By Doc Vocado

This soothing take on R&B comes from New Jersey native singer, SZA, off of her first retail album and third EP release, “Z”. The song seems to be a poetic representation of young-adult angst. Born in 1990, SZA opens the song with, “Rippin’ the heads off of my Barbie dolls…”, and later throws in a few Street Fighter references, relating the content to her own age group. The breathy female vocals make for a very smooth track, but this piece is made unique by its versatility, as Chance the Rapper abruptly chimes in half way through the song with a very original multi-syllabic rhyme scheme. The album is worth a listen as a whole, which is a hell of an achievement in the era of YouTube hit wonders. This is by far the strongest single though, and is definitely worthy of the playlist you have for when you apply shea butter.

-Doc

Thee Oh Sees – The Lens

by The Insomniac

Here’s a new track from Thee Oh Sees’ new album “Drop” – This is the album closer and it feels like it. “The Lens” could fit the closing montage of a film or accompany the credits – it’s relaxing, slow, and there’s no distortion to be found. Qualities I wouldn’t usually pick out for Thee Oh Sees, but this was a pleasant surprise to an album I’m still trying to get my head around. This song straddles the fence between happiness and melancholy so well, I still can’t figure out which is a more fitting tone after 15 listens. Looking for answers in the psilocybin-inspired music video may not get you much farther either, but it sure is pretty sweet – check it out.