Best neo-Britpop/Northern Soul revival/art- damaged band comprising some ex-Yalies who now live in Brooklyn (2008)

Harlem Shakes

Or pseudo-twee bombast meets intellectualized disco. Or More Songs About Joseph Beuys and Other Carpetbaggers. Lethally charming and poised for certain success, Harlem Shakes was formed a year or so ago by five gents who pillaged their well-stocked bookshelves and iPods to create their own spastic, beguiling version of what Phil Spector once dubbed "the sound of tomorrow, today." It doesn't hurt one bit that these guys have heart-throbby names—Brent, Lexy, Jose, Kendrick, and Todd—and the looks and personalities to match. Yes, there's much smarty-pants Blurring of wordy, witty power-pop anthems and open-hearted homage to the melodious sorrow of brainiacs Momus and Stephin Merritt, plus a sly nod to fellow travellers Beirut (with whom the band shares the ferociously talented Jon Natchez on horns and such). The Shakes' deliciously teasing self-released debut EP, Burning Birthdays (2007), is initially more propulsive than contemplative—songs like "Old Flames" and "Red Right Hands" rock the house live, and make the transition to disc with an undeniable, utterly calculated appeal. But their gamy, glammy signature tune "Sickos" is the song of the year, so far as many of us are concerned: Its absurdly catchy melody, mindworm keyboard obbligato, chrome-plated down-stroked guitars, and heavenly choir b-vox make Lexy's gurgling, "ABC"-inflected delivery of "If there's a bomb in your hand, just throw it/If the ground's too hot, just run" so poised and plausible, it's frightening. Or hysterically funny. Or all of the above.


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