Reviewed by Mary Rehak.
Harlem released Free Drugs 😉 in late 2008, and within little more than a year had a record deal courtesy of Matador, an album review on Pitchfork and some solid blogger buzz (started by early and frequent hype courtesy of Dallas-based Gorilla Vs. Bear).
Soon after signing, they headed for California to record their follow-up, Hippies. At 16 songs, it can be a bit more difficult to get through than the previous album, which jolted along quickly on brash, unpolished and sloppy-drunk party vibes. Hippies unfolds more deliberately, and while they retain much of the rough sound that makes them so charming, the tweaks and polished bits of a studio album are evident in the mix.
The raucous energy of their stage show carries over much less on this album than the previous, surprisingly only rarely to their detriment. The first track, “Someday Soon,” was my only real disappointment from the album, and only because I loved the (very different) live version so much. Most of the first six songs of Hippies are so hook-filled you’ll probably find them stuck in your head for a while: “Be Your Baby” and “Gay Human Bones” (below) are catchy as hell, and “Friendly Ghost” will probably be on my Top 10 end-of-the-year list. Later in the album, the raunchy, jangly strut of “Stripper Sunset” is going to be positively filthy live, and is a great punch as you reach the last few tracks.
Harlem’s “Gay Human Bones”
My only reservations with this album are linked to each other: The tracks are sometimes so short, and there are so many of them. I would rather have more than just a two-minute tease of some of the songs I’m really diggin’, with fewer than 16 tracks. The problem is, if you asked I wouldn’t be able to decide which ones I’d cut.
I really do think these guys just wanna get drunk and have fun with their music, and want you to also. Hippies is going to be, like Free Drugs 😉 was, a perfect soundtrack to the summer.
Red River rating: 7.5 out of 10