Garage rock done right aches for the sort of unbridled enthusiasm at the core of Hippies, the first Matador record from Austin-via-Tucson trio Harlem.
The band's bouncy, melodic garage rock is colored with flecks of soul and surf rock, but it's the fantastic songs that hold Hippies aloft. The record is an absolute powerhouse that opens with nine consecutive tracks that rate great to excellent. It's only once the band lets off the throttle ever so slightly that Hippies takes a small dip.
The band—Michael Coomers, Curtis O'Mara and Jose Boyer—plays with a loose and straightforward combination of guitar, bass and drums. The formula is hardly unique, but it's executed to near perfection.
Hippies is full of love songs and breakup songs, but it's the band's spin on the great tradition of American rock, pop and soul that gives the record its magnetism.
Between opener "Someday Soon" and "Be Your Baby," the band's lyrics swing from flippant mischief to youthful sincerity; Harlem deftly handles both: "Someday soon you'll be on fire / and you'll ask me for a glass of water / I'll say no, you can just let that shit burn / and you'll say please, please, please put me out;" and "I just wanna be your baby / I don't mean maybe."
With a hefty 16 songs in a quick 40 minutes, Hippies could've lost a couple of less-memorable tunes. Small flaws aside, it's an absolute stunner of an album, brimming with confidence and songs that draw you in again and again.