Harlem hasn’t had a record in almost a decade. The Austin garage rockers released their debut in Hippies in 2010. It was a scrappy and energetic ride that gained them a lot of fans. There was no follow-up however, and listeners were left wanting for more.
The band has since had a comeback in 2017 and played in a lot of live venues, which led to their latest release in 2019.
In Oh Boy, we find a rock trio that’s more laid back and subdued. Their songs are still infused with that classic surf rock and doo-wop flair, but without the energetic drive and raw energy that they once had. Each song has a mournful twang that looks back on the good old days of classic 50’s and 60’s rock.
Oh Boy takes its time and hardly ever rocks out, which may disappoint fans who waited years for a follow up from their electrifying debut.
Move those expectations aside however and this album shines on its own. Harlem chose to slow things down and refine their craft. The result is a collection of slow to mid-tempo pop tunes with stellar production and a minimalist vintage aesthetic. Tracks flow into each other seamlessly with hardly a moment of harshness in its 12 tracks.
“Swervin’” is a tender song of a love that’s willing to suffer through anything just to be with someone.
“Lana” is a lovely earworm that’s smooth and hypnotic. A song of appreciation to Lana del Ray and Beyonce music and the emotions they provoke. Which the band suggests, is best paired with red wine and bread.
Other standouts are “Click Your Heels”. A classic rock ballad with a mellow organ reminiscent of the Beatles. “Blonde on Blonde” has an endearing surf guitar hook with an uplifting reverb. “All Men Are Dogs” has an inviting bass riff with a mellow twang, where vocalist Michael Coomers sings of misunderstandings and how relationship dynamics between men and women can be a tricky subject.
The album ends with “Queen of Mosquitos”, a smooth and relaxing slow-burn that’s perfect for a late night lounge. Coomers references Sylvia Plath and Valerie Solonas in an effort to impress the titular queen with his own knowledge. He repeatedly calls himself a fool in his adoration of the queen, displaying the type of wit that’s prevalent in Harlem’s songs.
Oh Boy has been a long time coming and in my opinion presents Harlem with a more mature and refined sound. Something we should openly welcome to see the brilliance it has in store.