February 18th, 2011 | Album reviews

Dave Van Patten

The Growlers “What It Is”
(from Hot Tropics out now on Everloving)

The Growlers have set a high bar for themselves: over the past couple years they’ve attained the eminence of a favorite pair of worn-in boots, and hearing that they were going into the studio to re-record songs from various volumes of their self-recorded, self-released Couples 1-8 EPs induced a panic in me akin to hearing someone say, “Don’t you think it’s time for some new boots?” But to my joy and relief, Hot Tropics surpassed my greatest expectations. Now in theory, the Growlers could have continued their DIY trajectory for ages. With over 100 self-recorded tracks under their collective belts, multiple full-lengths could have been formed from previous recordings and released over the course of many years. Sure, the Couples recordings are a bit lo-fi, but plenty of bands make that work for them—think Times New Viking! Re-recording songs also presents a concern: what if you can’t recreate the magic? This is the question that seized me with apprehension as I placed the needle on the 10” vinyl (the packaging on this record is of the utmost quality, by the way). But all my fears melted away with each passing track. The new recordings do sound different, but in a good way. As a rule I prefer demos and practice recordings to slick studio finishes, but Hot Tropics may be the exception. This brilliant work showcases the Growlers in their fullest stride, like fancy new boots that make you feel mature and confident.

—Vanessa Gonzalez