“Unlike so many up-and-coming New York bands, the Shakes avoid lingering in one narrow-minded framework. The harmonies may lend themselves to some throwback Spector-era comparisons, and some of the grander choruses may resemble a primordial New Pornographers or Walkmen, but thanks to a frenetic clip of hooks, you can’t simply pigeonhole Burning Birthdays.” â€” Pitchfork EP review (7.3)
“…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’s 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.” â€”All Music Guide (4 and a half stars)
“This Brooklyn band debuts with a remarkably well-crafted EP of expansive garage-pop combining ultra-catchy melodies with soaring harmonies. Their bright, effervescent sound incorporates some vintage pop-rock influences (doo wop, Phil Spector and ’60s girl groups) while also fitting in with New York contemporaries like the Strokes and the Walkmen.” – Don Yates , KEXP
“Every band from New York thinks it’s the Next Big Thing, but these guys might actually pull it off. Catchy garage rock, great harmonies and you can dance to it, too.”â€”The Washington Post
“Harlem Shakes are one of the hottest bands in Brooklyn right now. They apply a rough-and-ready New York aesthetic — deliciously sloppy guitars, speeding drum and bass lines — to the soaring sounds of the golden age of ’50s rock.” â€”Playboy
“With a garage-rock shimmy and power-pop twinkle, these New York kids craft a sweet cacophony…”â€”SPIN
“Burning Birthdays continues like a game of hide and seek in which the Harlem Shakes jump and shiver within a decadent soundscape of psychedelic pop rock.” â€”Nylon
“… solid five-track EP scrambles sweet melodies with an overwhelming swirl of zany ’60s-style details. Psychedelic organ and pounded-out piano are prevalent everywhere, with plenty of unexpected sounds woven in. Accordion swells add warmth to “Felt Wings,” and space-age synth work rings above the panic anthem “Sickos.” Throughout the disc, cooing background vocals bring calming consistency to songs played with maniacal conviction.” â€”Time Out NY, Critics pick, 4 star review
Harlem Shakes as we know it were born in 2006, after an earlier incarnation of the band went to college and went nuts. Lexy still sings lead, and Brent still plays the drums (and drum machine), but now Kendrick plays keyboards, Jose plays bass, and Todd plays guitar. Everyone sings. Harlem Shakes have toured with Deerhoof, Vampire Weekend, and Beirut, and opened for Wire, Clap Your Hands Say Yeah, Arctic Monkeys, and various other famous bands with animal names. Burning Birthdays, the bandâ€™s self-released debut EP, came out in 2007 to wide acclaim, earning generous praise from Pitchfork, Rolling Stone, SPIN, AllMusic, Stylus, The Village Voice, and the blogs. Pitchfork complimented their â€œfrenetic clip of hooks,â€ and sometime Magnetic Field-er LD Beghtol of The Voice called them â€œlethally charmingâ€ and one of â€œthe Best of New York.â€ The band is sure that all this good luck must come at some kind of lurking, damning cost.
After extensive touring and a bit of schooling, the band got back together with Chris Zane (Les Savy Fav, The Walkmen, Passion Pit, White Rabbits) to record their first full-length album, Technicolor Health. The result is one of the most quietly ambitious pop albums in ages. Much like Blur fused English pop traditions and contemporary sonics to forge Brit Pop, Harlem Shakes meld the Great American Songbook with unmistakably contemporary textures, creating what one might call “Am Pop.” Influences as disparate as the Band, Randy Newman, Carlos Santana and Spank Rock inform the soundscapes, but the vibe is too coherent to be called eclectic. Technicolor Health invokes the synthesized Latin percussion that plays outside the bandâ€™s apartments every night as theyâ€™re trying to fall asleep, and the classic rock radio they listen to with hilarious regularity. These are social songs: instruments meander, trade off lines, and counter each otherâ€™s rhythms and melodies, but ultimately they come together again on the chorus, or in an ecstatic outro or bridge, for a singalong family dinner. Harlem Shakes also have an unapologetically literary lilt; writers like Leonard Michaels, Wislawa Szymborska, and David Berman echo in Lexy’s lyrics.
Technicolor Health was made after and during some tough times (involving serious sickness) for the band. The record captures the weary, hopeful, and sometimes triumphal vibe of that period in their lives. Above all, the album is about surviving abject shittiness. But it’s also about what new-wave bands and new-wave revival bands call, â€œmodern life,â€ as lived by five thoughtful men in their early and mid-twenties during a weird, sometimes miserable, mostly thrilling historical moment. Harlem Shakes have been obsessed by pop music their whole lives, and after all the reiterations, they still have great faith in its power to make you and them feel a little better about things, and to say something vital, and God willing, maybe even enduring.
HARLEM SHAKES ANSWER YOUR MOST PRESSING QUESTIONS
Why the name?
Used to play dance music. Broke up and reformed but didnâ€™t want to go back to playing Acme Underground, or â€œShithole of the Universe,â€ as we call it. Also, were the Afghan Whigs from Afghanistan? Tokyo Police Club from Tokyo?
Todd’s got an excellent band called Arms that records for Melodic in the UK. Brent and Lexy have an improvisational rock group called Magic Animals featuring Lexy on guitar/vocals and Brent on everything/vocals. Kendrick has a marriage. Jose is writing what he calls a â€œbass opera.â€ We canâ€™t wait to see what the fuck that could possibly be.
Wire, Mahler, Antonio Gramsci, E-40.
Though we are friends with some of the bands you probably associate with the borough, and are inevitably influenced/inspired by some friends, we are fiercely independent. We donâ€™t write songs that sound like postcards from Sedona, Arizona or wear quiltsâ€”even if one song is about urban sun worship. That said, Brooklyn big up! Red Hoooook!
Love it. But the only world music that made it onto our album is the stuff we hear around us everyday, namely Latin music. In an effort to authentically capture the spirit of Latin percussion, the band exhaustively studied the â€œLatin Mojoâ€ setting of its Dr. Groove drum machine and had regular meetings with our bassist Jose and assorted members of Lexyâ€™s extended family.
Oh, and for some reason, we own an Egyptian drum called a doumbek, and we use it. A lot. We thought it was a djembe until we took it on our tour with Deerhoof, and Greg Saunier kindly corrected the shameful falsehood weâ€™d been spreading to audiences across the country! Our singerâ€™s multicultural ancestry includes a North African father, and this allows us to feel like our use of this drum isnâ€™t brazen cultural appropriation. Also, we donâ€™t care. The record features a hint of minor-key sax, stolen from Ethiopian seventies soul.
We have huge, open hearts and love to collaborate. On this record, we enlisted the expertise of Stuart Bogie from Antibalas/TV on the Radio on baritone and tenor sax, Eric Biondo from Antibalas and Beyondo on trumpet, Kelly Pratt from Arcade Fire and Team B on French horn, Jon Natchez from Beirut on bari sax, Shilpa Ray from Shilpa Ray and Her Happy Hookers and Beat the Devil (R.I.P), Julia Tepper from Frances and The Americans on vocals, and the lovely Larkin Grimm of Young God Recordings on vocals. Thanks you guys. Also, apologies to Larkinâ€™s dog Jakeleg.
When was the last time you watched this show? It is staggeringly good. If Falstaff has been a cop he might have been Sipowicz.
Tons of them. About the album: wish it were funkier. Only John Mayer makes funky pop music with guitars these days. An earlier version of the album had more solos, and solos are the most underrated form of human communication.
First show Brent and Lexy ever played was at CBGB. Some argue they covered â€œCreep.â€
1. Nothing But Change Part II
2. Strictly Game
4. Niagara Falls
6. Unhurried Hearts (Passaic Pastoral)
7. Winter Water
8. Natural Man
9. Radio Orlando
10. Technicolor Health