Truly cool music: Har Mar Superstar Gets Heavy

STORY BY Holly Ramos

Published: June 26, 2013

This is how I was turned on to and tuned into Har Mar: First off, let me say that my life is magical and glorious. My three-year-old daughter has a baby sitter named Lydia who is also a film director because, yes, Los Angeles is a special place. They have a cool relationship that includes turning one another on to music. My daughter turned Lydia on to Trini Lopez, so Lydia got her a Trini Lopez album on vinyl for her third birthday. Lydia turned my daughter onto Neil Young before I had the chance to. They both dig Serge Gainsbourg, each discovering his music independent of one another and independent of me. Lydia has a cat named Serge and my daughter likes cats. Lydia cast Har Mar Superstar in her new film. The guy I lost my virginity to told me to check out Har Mar for this column. We were listening to Stiff Little Fingers during the act. The turntable was set to play 45’s even thought the speed was set to 33 1/3, so the last three songs of the album played again and again and again, “Tin Soldier…”.  Today, while driving, I heard a cool song on KCRW. I did not know what it was but I liked it and I was impressed by the hardness of the drums. It was a retro sounding funky soul song with great drive. It reminded me of how I appreciate solid grounded things, like playing an instrument with guts. Once my piano teacher complained that I hit the keys too hard, “Lighten up” he yelled. “No!”  I yelled back. Anyway, the track turned out to be Har Mar Superstar’s song “Prisoner” off of his latest album Bye Bye 17. I heard the track independent of Lydia, independent of my daughter, and independent of the virginity guy. It just came to me via synchronicity and the fabulous fm radio.


I tell you all of that because Har Mar says that he listened to a lot of Otis Redding and Sam Cooke in preproduction for Bye Bye 17, his new album. I am a huge fan of both Otis and Sam. When I hear various recordings by artists that are very influenced by those guys and I can never get past the fact that, despite my appreciating the classic arrangements, all the folk trying to sound like Otis Redding or Sam Cooke just don’t cut it and sometimes it is annoying.


Listening to Har Mar’s album, I don’t hear him trying to copy any masters. I hear the influences of the artists he talks about in the horn arrangements and the writing but what I am focused on is that I hear so much more. I hear John Lennon doing Stand Bye Me, I hear Saturday Night Fever, I hear Grease, and I hear Stevie Wonder in his wondrous funk incarnation and I hear some heavy funky soul and good music that is bigger than influences, that is more than copping a classic style. I don’t hear any trying, I just hear presence. Bye Bye 17 is some solid work, dare I say magical and glorious in a big fat roundabout way.


Check out Har Mar Superstar June 28th at the Knitting Factory in Brooklyn, He is also playing July 6th in Austin TX, and November 22nd in East Sussex UK.


Look for Har Mar in Lydia Hyslop’s directorial debut “You Won’t Be Disappointed,” coming soon to a theatre near you.


Other Stories by Holly Ramos
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