Weekend Listening: Hot Tropics by The Growlers
Album: Hot Tropics by The Growlers
Released: October 12, 2010 by Everloving Records
Recommended if you like: Sand-crusted bohemian rock songs about graveyards
Notable Tracks: “Graveyard’s Full,” but also just play the whole thing (read on, friends, so that makes sense)
“I never suggest this band to anyone, Laura, but I think I get you and I think you’ll like it.”
Last Tuesday I stood before a group of students who’ve known me for only a week, and I opened class by asking them why they thought it was their parents only listen to music from when they were younger. “They like it?” someone questioned from the back. “They listened to it in high school and they just still like it, Laura.” A chorus of agreement rose from the ranks, a gentle defense of their sweet old parents all stuck in their childhoods.
I don’t think that’s it, I said.
At their protest, I pointed out that if they believed that to be true, then they should get settled into whatever they listen to right now, because they are the age their parents were when they sort of solidified their core musical tastes.
That news was not exactly welcome.
I’m in a position of power as an instructor. Because of the nature of my job, I can crowd source opinion and experience many times a day about almost whatever I want. Because I’m an adult and I know that their parents are kind of musically stuck because finding new music is like a needy boyfriend who needs constant attention or he’ll just die, on Monday I asked my students to tell me their favorite albums. One of my students, a floppy-haired, sweet-eyed kid who was impressed at my ability to pronounce his name and also my predilection for metal shows, stayed after a bit to explain his suggestion.
The Growlers, he says. You’ll like them, he promises.
I put the album on in my car after leaving class that day, and 20 seconds into the opening track I’m looking at my empty passenger seat like
Put out in 2010, Hot Tropics is reminiscent of the kind of shit you all, if you read this joint, know that I like. Can you not hear Link Wray in that tremolo effect, Bob Dylan in that voice, a little vintage White Stripes in that jangle? Self-described as “beach goth,” when I had my first listen of the album a couple of days ago, all I could think about was a band of wanderers playing on the beach at night. Overall, this album has a tight effect, the kind of album where the songs run together and the lyrics aren’t at the forefront, not at first, because you’re caught up in the smoke and embers of this timeless night. Rather than feeling like a distinct group of songs, this album feels more like a short story cycle, obviously connected through the lazy, lo-fi vocals and prevalent guitar. Nothing ever feels too forced, too aggressive, too upbeat, but never does this album feel sleepy. The kind of languid sex appeal that lanky tan boy, the one whose hair turned blond and curled up at the edges, who had tan lines on the tops of his feet that you thought were so sexy when you were a teenager – that’s the thread of this album, and I’m falling for it like a hormonal 16-year-old all over again.
This album makes me want to run away from the ice and cold and emails and get drunk on a beach, barefoot, with the hem of my dress stained with saltwater.
For the first time, I’m writing about an album I’m not fully versed with. Seriously, since that day I’ve been listening to this album, trying to unpack it, but I keep getting distracted by visions of the Outer Banks and shimmering heat waves, perspiration from cheap beer cans running ice water down my wrists and into the sand, freckles on my nose turning pink in the sun, and I think that’s the point. You listen to this album on road trips, in the shower, while grilling outside, just letting it spin out around you.
Finding new, especially new current, music can be something like a part-time job. So many of my favorite records I picked up at a thrift store because the title sounded silly, or the band looked happy, or the record label put out something else I liked, but I can’t tell you how many albums from the past 5 years I’ve bought or even truly liked. Even though the digital availability of newer music reaches huge audiences, the exposure to amazing bands remains the hard part. That’s why people get stuck in the tunes of their late teens – they get further and further away from pop culture as they get busier and busier until they’re 35 and realize the only CDs they own are from 15 years ago and who the fuck is that blaring noise on the radio that is decidedly NOT AS GOOD AS their bands that put out albums 15 years ago.
But if you love music, you ask, and if your people love music, they give.
Even though I can barely write about this album because I haven’t listened to it 88 times yet, I’m giving it to you now because I’m excited about it just like my student was excited to give it to me. Play it over your weekend, dream of the coast, and go tell someone about one of your favorite albums, no matter what it is.