Harlem Are All Mellow and Literary on "Queen of Mosquitos"
The long-absent indie band, who will return with their third album 'Oh Boy' in February, have a new single that references Valerie Solanas and Corinthian columns. It's lovely.
Austin-based indie rock band Harlem's second studio album, 2010's Hippies, was a throwback that fit perfectly within its own time. Texas and the Pacific Northwest were spitting out garage punk bands with the frequency of a salivating smoker, and Harlem's songcraft helped them to the top of the scene. They were unpolished but unafraid of catchy choruses, seemingly as indebted to Big Star as they were to T-Rex. They were all set for indie fame.
Then they just sort of vanished. It's been eight years since Hippies came out on Matador, and while Harlem's members have been working on other projects (Curtis O'Mara with the ragged-pop band Grape St., Michael Coomers with the more delicate Lace Curtains), the follow-up to Hippies seemed destined never to come out.
But they finally got back together last year for an inspired cover of Lana Del Rey's "Cola," and the two enjoyed the experience so much that they've decided to get things moving again. Oh Boy, their third album, is due out on February 14, and the two singles they've released already—"Cry Now Cry Later" and "Swervin"—are just as witty, easily melodic, and instantly enjoyable as anything they released at the turn of the decade. But things are mellower now, the edges have been sanded down, and Harlem sound like a more assured band for it.
"Queen of Mosquitoes," the third single from the record (premiering below), is the sweetest and least hurried of the lot, floating along on a placid Hammond organ, peppered with little literary references from Coomers. It's charming without seeming naive, self-effacing without seeming disingenuous, and calming without sending the listener into a coma.
"'Queen of Mosquitos' is a term of endearment," Coomers wrote in an email to Noisey, clearing up a few of those textual allusions. "I wrote most of the lyrics while attending community college. If they veer into the territory of a syllabus listing, you’ll have to forgive me. Sylvia Plath is a national treasure. [Valerie Solanas's] The Scum Manifesto is worth a look. And it’s actually easy to tell the difference between ionic and Corinthian columns, just look at the capital!"
Listen to the single below and pre-order Oh Boy right here.
Follow Alex Robert Ross on Twitter.