Considering their age (hint: you won’t find them at a bar), the fresh-faced boys of Twin Cities outfit Howler know a lot about making an entrance on the rock & roll scene. They’re riding on the shoulders of the hype machine, having earned praise from the blog circuit and international press alike before their debut was even released. They’ve passed through the exclusive gates of musical hipness, with permanently skinny-jeaned frontman Jordan Gatesmith snagging a spot on NME’s “2011 Cool List.” Influential U.K. label Rough Trade flew to Minneapolis to see the band after hearing a demo—and signed them that night.
In January that union yielded America Give Up, an almost absurdly hook-ridden collection of tracks with titles like “Beach Sluts” and “Free Drunk.” The album proves that Howler has mastered the art of effortless garage rock, with carefree harmonies, girl-group claps and deliberately unrefined lyrics, resembling Surfer Blood with nods to Phil Spector and a heavy dose of the Strokes (who were also brought to us by Rough Trade, incidentally). There’s nothing groundbreaking about the disc, but it packs enough hooks, fuzz and twang to make it a mainstay at your favorite grungy bar or next beer-laden BBQ.
Live, Howler lives up to expectations. This week the teens hit town after a busy run at SXSW and sold-out shows across Europe and Asia. Let’s see if the buzz has gone to their heads yet.—Marley Lynch
Follow Marley Lynch on Twitter: @marleyasinbob