New York City Queens, Burn Out Like Roman Candles

New York City Queens, <em>Burn Out Like Roman Candles</em>

Yeah, I’ll admit it — those New York City Queens kids have charmed me, thoroughly and completely. I was skeptical of the band at first, and hell, I couldn’t even tell you why, but when they popped up, seemingly out of nowhere, and nonchalantly tossed their debut, last year’s Somewhere Different, Something New, out into the pile, I held back, arms crossed, daring the band to prove to me that they are/were worth listening to.

And prove it they did. I listened to SDSN, then listened to it again, then again, and again, ’til it was living in my car and the backpack I take to and from work every day. The band really, truly hooked me in, with those near-flawless classic pop hooks and just-edgy-enough vibe; once I finally saw the band live, I was sold.

At the same time, though, the album itself still nagged at me just a bit. While I definitely liked it a hell of a lot, more and more it seemed a little “young,” to me, the product of a band that hadn’t quite found their footing.

The sound was there, definitely, but it felt like the band didn’t yet have that locked-together tightness you get from playing together over and over again, writing songs together, getting in fights, the whole mess. And hey, how could they? As bands go, they were a very young band, one with a lot of room to grow.

Then they just as nonchalantly dropped their new full-length, Burn Out Like Roman Candles, into our unsuspecting arms, and poof, there go any lingering reservations I had about the band. This time around, the New York City Queens are focused, tightly-knit, and utterly, completely confident, and it works like you wouldn’t believe.

The band’s overall sound is largely intact, mind you, but they shift between those subgenres of pop a lot more smoothly than they did on SDSN, changing direction with barely a sly sidewise grin. They’ve got this shit down, now, and it’s impressive to see.

Granted, there’s a bit of a formula in evidence with a lot of the tracks on here, but still, it works. On opener “Roman Candles,” for the very first example, the song starts off low-key and subtle, all heavy-lidded haziness and interweaving vocals from frontman/guitarist John Stephens, vocalist/bassist Kitty Beebe, and vocalist/guitarist Daniela Hernandez, the latter of whom croon sweetly beneath Stephens’ scratched-up voice.

By the time it gets to the break, though, the song’s started to climb upwards, with the band’s three guitars — Stephens, Hernandez, and guitarist Tom Guth — playing beautifully off one another as it builds to a driving, chiming crescendo. You get pulled along as NYCQ heads for the sky, and by the end, you’ve forgotten there even was a quiet, chilled-out part at the beginning.

For a lot of the album, that’s the band’s modus operandi: start quiet and soft, then crank things up ’til you’re on fire. See “Foxes,” where the band first comes off jangly and quasi-seductive but then bursts into a jumping, bouncing ska rhythm, or “Radio,” which is gentle at the start but busy and proggy and addictive by the end. With a lot of bands, that could get flat-out boring after a while, but here it’s more endearing than anything else, and I find myself liking Burn Out Like Roman Candles a hell of a lot even still.

One of the handful of exceptions to the above rule, though, “Tell Me All About It,” also happens to be my favorite song on the album. It’s propulsive and desperate, with the guitars thundering along a New Wave-on-speed melodic line while the rhythm section (Beebe and drummer Isaac Chavez-Garza) practically throws the song itself forward. Honest, every time the song ends, I want to hit the “Back” button and listen to it all over again.

Throughout Burn Out, the Queens mash together pretty much every type of pop imaginable, from surf-pop riffage to jangly, Elliott Smith-esque folk to ’70s-retro power pop (which brings to mind The Push Kings, for me) to shimmery dreampop to head-nodding, upbeat New Wave, and heat it up ’til it all melts and intermingles and mixes, coming out a candy-colored, thoroughly great pop-rock amalgam that’s just about impossible for a pop-song fanatic like myself to resist.

Some bands take years to hit their stride — these five kids apparently only needed 10 months or so. My hat’s off to y’all.

(Feature photo by Tyler Casper.)

[New York City Queens are playing their album release 8/17/12 at Fitzgerald’s, along with Featherface, The Sour Notes, & Wild Child.]
(Regressive Records --; New York City Queens --; New York City Queens (Twitter) --

Review by . Review posted Friday, August 17th, 2012. Filed under Features, Reviews.

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7 Responses to “New York City Queens, Burn Out Like Roman Candles

  1. SPACE CITY ROCK » Yr. Weekend, Pt. 1: New York City Queens (Rev’d!) + Knights of the Fire Kingdom + Fiskadoro + Life as Lions + More on August 17th, 2012 at 8:21 pm

    […] Happily, Burn Out takes the promise of the first album and builds on it in a great, great way, showcasing a band that’s grown by leaps and bounds in the relatively short time they’ve been around. The NYCQ folks seriously know their way around a hook or a melody, and I’ve been listening to the new album nearly non-stop in the runup to tonight’s release show. Check ‘em out, and check out the full review over here. […]

  2. SPACE CITY ROCK » Yr. Weekend, Pt. 1: The Wheel Workers + Lila Downs + New York City Queens + She Has Hope + Vestibule + More on April 5th, 2013 at 5:19 pm

    […] with each release they put out, they seem to grow by leaps and bounds — put last year’s Burn Out Like Roman Candles up against 2011′s Something Different, Something New, and you’ll get what I mean. Hell, […]

  3. SPACE CITY ROCK » Yr. Weekend, Pt. 2: New York City Queens + A Sea Es + Brand New Hearts + P-Funk + Summer Street Fest + Craig Kinsey + More on May 4th, 2013 at 12:56 am

    […] already where they need to be, and that’s definitely not the case — last year’s Burn Out Like Roman Candles came awful close to cracking my top 15 albums of the whole year, and given the competition, […]

  4. SPACE CITY ROCK » Yr. Weekend, Pt. 2: !Yes Indeed! Fest + American Sharks + Illegal Wiretaps + Wine Fest + Touche Amore + More on July 12th, 2013 at 12:27 am

    […] remarkably tight and fully fleshed-out in terms of their sound, and with this year’s Burn Out Like Roman Candles, their songwriting has improved even from the darn-good debut of Somewhere Different, Something […]

  5. SPACE CITY ROCK » Yr. Weekend, Pt. 1: New York City Queens + Second Lovers + Young Girls + Blackmarket Syndicate + Le Castle Vania + Mills-McCoin + More on October 4th, 2013 at 9:06 pm

    […] with a bit of a retro-’70s glam tinge to it. You really ought to hear their 2012 release, Burn Out Like Roman Candles, if you haven’t […]

  6. SPACE CITY ROCK » Yr. Weekend, Pt. 1: Second Lovers + Adam Bricks + Shellee Coley + New York City Queens + The Lotus Effect + BLSHS + Bang Bangz + Final Fest + More on January 24th, 2014 at 5:19 pm

    […] into one of the best thing’s this city’s got going, at least pop-wise. 2012′s Burn Out Like Roman Candles was phenomenal, easily blowing the band’s also-good debut out of the water. Here’s […]

  7. SPACE CITY ROCK » Not All Texas Music Is Country — TXFEST Arrives Tomorrow to Prove It on September 17th, 2015 at 4:45 pm

    […] the past year or so, but I’m told they’re hard at work on the followup to 2012’s Burn Out Like Roman Candles, which saw the band doing these bright-yet-sharp pop tunes that owe as much to old-school power-pop […]

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