CD REVIEW: Harhay - Swimming Pools, Movie Stars
By Levi Canfield
Weakness: Some songs feel drowned out by the electronic gauze
With the album title, “Swimming Pools and Movie Stars”, Harhay really gives off an amateur vibe that feels underappreciated at first. Underneath the corny graphics is a gentle collection of ten bluesy songs that mix acoustic guitar, behind ambient electronics. This dense assortment of blues rock has a thick atmosphere behind it’s sounding, giving it a strong added depth reminiscent of Beck’s “Sea Change”. Without an actual website, this band’s elusive nature makes for a courageous jump into it’s unknown depths. The CD itself provides only the song titles, band members names, and production credits. Harhay, whether serious or not, really can crank out some soulful tunes.
The first song truly is the most listenable to a random listeners. Starting off solid with the title track, “Swimming Pools and Movie Stars” sets up the scene for the honest vocals that remind the listener of an amateur Dave Matthews. It’s a simple 3 minute somber cry for making it big. Following that the album cruises through some forgettable tracks before the piano’s cut out and the candid reggae anthem “Yamahauler” starts. Which is easily the most lighthearted track on the album. A creative toy piano chord progression intro starts the song before it finally flows into a skankin ready hit that’s going to get anybodies head bobbing soon enough. Only one song later does Harhay tinge again on the Jamaican roots with the heavily reggae influenced “My Way Home”. Diving deeply into the Bob Marley vibe, this album feels no discomfort doing it since the entire time its been drawing heavily on a bluesy, stoner vibe in the first place. Flowing into reggae only seems fitting. In between the two rhythmic Jamaican songs is the album’s most delightful pop nugget called “My Way Home”. With clear and crisp vocals, the simple song structure and bumping bass remind the listener of the most radio friendly Dave Matthews cover ever. Finally the album closes with final two songs “Vendelay” and “Toe Jam vs The June Bug”. The possible avant-garde collection of repeating cartoon samples, Hip-hop beat, and Trumpets in “Venedelay” rides the fence on whether its just odd elevator music, or an ingenious collage. Finally the album closes full circle with “Toe Jam vs The June Bug” which ends in a similar setting where the album picked up. Simple blues rock, but grander and more enduring.
To say the album is flawless would be a lie though. In the early first half many of the songs tend to drag. “Armadillo” is just a country bar box heap, and “Death By Lily” seems more fitting inside a dentist's office. The sax solo despite being beautiful, only helps keep the song stuck in it’s soft rock setting. With distorted vocals, the ambient atmosphere just keeps the listener in snoozeville. Unfortunately the next track drag’s worse with a thick gauze over the vocals. Without the jangling piano rushing the track through out its 3 minutes, it probably would find itself getting skipped more often then not.
Over the 10 songs, there will rarely be many dips that find time to press the skip button. Swimming pools might feel stretched at times, but even on its low moments it still finds itself keeping the beat, and trying to push its boundaries without stepping outside of its original shell. Without the strong sense appeal this album will more then likely find itself only discussed in small groups among folk/blues fans. Harhay doesn’t do much effort putting itself out there for getting discovered, but if fear of failing was the reason for the small press then the band couldn’t be farther from the truth. This was a blameless album, that shamelessly plays the music it wants to.
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