Album Picks: The Haxan Cloak, !!!, Akron/Family, Hanni El Khatib

Posted by Billy Gil, April 30, 2013 09:34am | Post a Comment

The Haxan CloakExcavation

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The Haxan Cloak’s Excavation is an aptly named trip into the other side of the human ego. It takes listeners on a ride through dark ride, requiring several listens for its movements to sink in and rewarding the patient with a unique listening experience. Starting with deep bass drum hits on “Consumed,” it moves into the two-part “Excavation,” which at first feels like travelling at the deepest part of the ocean, drumless and with little light let in, but deep sonar blasts of bass, heartbeats and backward sound guide us as if we’re seeing the unseen. Part two opens the chasm a bit, with squelching beats you could almost dance to, were they not so brutal and irregular. “Mara” sounds like the exact moment the protagonist finds the body in film noir or horror film, build on unseemly strings and a door-slamming beat. The two-part “The Mirror Reflecting” gets even deeper, with a beautifully decayed last quarter, and the nearly 13-minute “The Drop” actually finds The Haxan Cloak’s Bobby Krlic at his most open and easy to follow, with melodic synths that sound like a synth-pop song slowed to quarter-speed. Though it provides few easy entry points and demands much of its listener, The Haxan Cloak’s Excavation is a worthwhile journey, even just to say you made it to the other side.


!!! - Thr!!!er

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!!! have their work cut out for them on Thr!!!er, not having released an album in three years after the forgettable Strange Weather, Isn’t It?, while the dance-punk sound they helped popularize may seem like a fond early ’00s memory. Well worry not, !!!-ers. Thr!!!er knocks it out of the park in terms of referencing the band’s best work as well as updating it just enough to stand strongly amongst the current crop of dance rockers. Thr!!!er is well-paced, loaded with bangers, the best of which is “One Girl / One Boy,” which seems to address the updates, as frontman Nic Offer sings “just because now it’s different doesn’t change what it meant.” He’s singing about a relationship, but it could apply to the silky disco jam that the band spins out with utmost rhythmic precision. On “Get That Rhythm Right,” over a dark funk backbeat, Offer sings confidence-boosting sentiments: “I don’t cry about the could’ves, worry about the would’ves, sure don’t give a shit about the should’ves.” Single “Slyd” sees them referencing touchstones ESG and Queen with a vocally warped, poolside party jammer that culminates in the come-on “let’s go somewhere we can be alone.” By maintaining their vibrancy and enthusiasm for the all-important party starter across Thr!!!er, !!! avoid being piled in with relics of the previous decade, standing alongside their peers in Phoenix, Cut Copy and the like. CHK CHK CHK 4EVA!!!


Akron/Family - Sub Verses

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Although Akron/Family releases bounce from sound to sound underneath one big psych-rock umbrella, listening to them never feels like a chore, thanks to the trio’s boundless energy and oft-unheralded dedication to cohesion and hookiness beneath the din. Thus they continue on their sixth release, Sub Verses, which continues to tear folk to tatters and string it though a gauntlet of influences. The band looks to Africa for influence on the Mali-style guitar work that is laced over explosive opener “No-Room” and African-inspired vocal exercises that pour over the melodic indie pop of “Way Up.” Their experimentation never feels like pandering, though, and they have a way of making it all seem warm and inviting, particularly on songs like wake-up electro-folk ballad “Until the Morning.” Even their more out-there tracks, like “Sometimes I,” which has the feel of an indie musical, with eerie strings underpinning a solo vocal performance, Akron/Family’s concoction of sound is strangely alluring and humanistic. When the singer says “sometimes I, I walk alone … looking something, looking for,” it doesn’t quite make sense yet feels innately familiar, conveying vague, lonely dread more clearly than would a direct sentiment or less static arrangement. Indeed, Sub Verses might be Akron/Family’s most moving musical statement to date.


Hanni El Khatib - Head In The Dirt

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Hanni El Khatib makes garage rock worth getting excited about on his second album, Head in the Dirt. Thanks to economical songwriting and deft production from The Black Keys’ Dan Auerbach, Head in the Dirt doesn’t overreach nor does it fail to deliver the goods, 11 quick and dirty garage pop songs with only the necessary flourishes, like the surging electronics that deceptively open the album on the title track, which quickly moves into a blues romp. Single “Family” takes Sister Sledge’s lyrical concept and applies it to punk-fueled hard rock that should please any Black Keys or White Stripes fan. El Khatib’s songs possess a certain machismo, singing he’ll pray for a “Skinny Little Girl” or painting himself as an outlaw in reggae-rocker “Nobody Move,” but he also gets tender for a girl in “Penny,” an irresistible bubblegum ditty that nicely breaks up the broin’ down. The album ain’t exactly loaded with poetry, but El Khatib is often at his best being off-handed about the songs, as straight-ahead rockers like “Pay No Mind” and “Sinking in the Sand” will attest. Sometimes you just need to get your rocks off, and Head in the Dirt makes that remarkably easy.

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Album Picks (146), New Albums (213), New Releases (214), The Haxan Cloak (3), !!! (5), Akron/family (3), Hanni El Khatib (17)