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Burning Birthdays - EP

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Album Review

What's up with Harlem Shakes? They're all over the internet, had a buzz going equal to a giant hive of bees, yet still managed to self-destruct, only to re-form, give up on finding a fitting label, and instead have chosen to self-release (finally!) their debut EP. For a supposedly lo-fi band, Burning Birthdays' sound is pretty high caliber, although the mix does its best to hide that fact, burying the wonderful keyboards so deep that it's barely audible, and attempting to re-create Phil Spector's Wall of Sound as heard through a tiny transistor radio (preferably buried under your pillow). So classic pop then, with an indisputably '60s AM feel to it all. That certainly describes "Carpet Baggers," all bright and shiny with some "uhs" and "ahs" harmonies tossed in for good measure. But Harlem shake it up with big booming beats, and a blizzard of guitars, under which the barreling piano work disappears. Bookending the set is the equally catchy but polar opposite "Old Flames," an anthemic rocker filled with rumbling drums, big, strident guitars and sparkling keyboards. "Sickos" is, if anything, even more infectious, and like "Carpet" brilliantly bright, with a sound almost cinematic in scope. And as wryly nihilistic as its lyrics are, that's nothing compared to "Felt Wings" with its spooky effects. Much like an angel on meth, the song careens wildly off through the air in a barrage of thumping drums and searing rock guitar solos, bashing through anything in its path. That's pretty cool. "Red Right Hands" is brilliant, a number that so subtly shifts through styles — from Big Stary western, through a touch of swing, across rockabilly into R&B and storming out in rock mode, as ethereal harmonies sing out above. So nuanced are the genre changes, they're virtually imperceptible, leaving listeners to ponder just how the sound got where it is. There are lots of garage bands out there, but few that so perfectly capture the sound of the time, whilst simultaneously pulling the rug out from the age of innocence with their all too cynical lyrics. Brilliant.


Formed: 2003 in Brooklyn, NY

Genre: Rock

Years Active: '00s

Brooklyn indie rock quintet Harlem Shakes are singer Lexy Benaim, guitarist Todd Goldstein (who also records solo as Arms), bassist Jose Soegaard, keyboardist Kendrick Strauch, and drummer Brent Katz. Mining a garage rock sound often compared to the Strokes, the group formed in 2003 and was named after the bandmembers' favorite dance move. After playing all over New York City and opening for the Walkmen, Clap Your Hands Say Yeah, and the Fiery Furnaces, Harlem Shakes finally self-released a debut...
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Top Albums and Songs by Harlem Shakes

Burning Birthdays - EP, Harlem Shakes
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