Sunday, March 15, 2009

Could they Shake Harlem?

The Washington Post/March 6, 2009
Alexander F. Remington

THE HARLEM SHAKES are a longtime up-and-coming New York indie rock band. Their energetic live show and fine 2007 debut EP ("Burning Birthdays") won them considerable buzz, but they didn't follow up with a long-player until now. Scheduled for release this month and filled with poppy guitars, synth washes, bouncing lyrics and smiling harmonies, "Technicolor Health" is a welcome arrival.

The Shakes take their name from a previous incarnation as a dance band, and their Latin-influenced beats are toe-tapping, but the sound is much more shambling than precise. They generally stay midtempo, with occasional rave-up intros but no real rock-outs. There's nothing too heavy, and the instrumentation is so perky that even the dark lyrics seem bright. It isn't quite saccharine, but it might be too sunny if it were much longer than its 10 songs and 37 minutes.

The best song is "Niagara Falls," the album's ballad, a lovely pop slice with slide guitars and a piano vamp, oohs and la-la-las: a love song on an all-night drive. Another highlight is the title track, a straightforward three-minute mini-anthem that closes the album.

As well-produced pop confections, the songs are hard to fault, though a few more minor keys and dischord, a little less sun and a little more dialed-up rock-and-roll, might be a welcome direction for the sophomore album. Here's hoping we don't have to wait so long next time.



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