Release Date: Jan 20, 2015
Record label: Innovative Leisure
Hanni El Khatib went from being a relative unknown in the music world to an indie-rock darling in what feels like no time. The L.A.-based songwriter may have gotten his start as creative director for a skateboard fashion label, but since his 2011 release, Will The Guns Come Out, it’s been all about the tunes. Khatib hooked up with The Black Keys’ Dan Auerbach out of mutual admiration, and Auerbach ended up producing Khatib’s 2013 release Head In The Dirt.
With his mix of garage, punk, and blues, San Francisco's Hanni El Khatib has built a sturdy reputation as a guitar-slinging one-man-band with retro tendencies. While his rough and tumble 2011 debut felt straight out of the cave, the 2013 follow-up he made with producer Dan Auerbach added some luster and focus without removing too much of the dirt that made him so appealing the first time around. The formula continues to evolve on 2015's Moonlight, with El Khatib adding new textures and expanding his palette both sonically and creatively on this self-produced third effort.
San Francisco fashion designer-turned-garage rock guru Hanni El Khatib spoke of having few expectations to live up to when coming to write and record his third album Moonlight. Last set, 2013’s Head in the Dirt certainly grabbed attention thanks to the guiding hands of Black Keys’ musical auteur Dan Auerbach; but it threw up no hits. Add to this a predominantly European following yet decidedly Californian sound, and you can start to see why he felt the pressure was off.
If you need an idea on what a Hanni El Khatib record is like, it’s best to go straight to the source. “Songs for anybody who has ever been shot or hit by a train” he calls it. “Knife-fighting music” for people who, “if they saw a snake on the ground, they’d step on its head”, or “being stuck in the desert with $5, a knife and a muscle car”.
Colin Meloy, the grandiloquent bard at the heart of the Decemberists, plants his silver tongue firmly in cheek at the start of “What a Terrible World, What a Beautiful World,” the group’s new album. By way of a deadpan disclaimer titled “The Singer Addresses His Audience” — “We had to change some, you know, to belong to you,” he sings, briefing the fervent faithful — the album opens knowingly, making an end run around at least one line of critique. This is the seventh album by the Decemberists, an indie-folk troupe so closely associated with the earnest creative energies of Portland, Ore., that the city has declared an official “Decemberists Day” to usher in the album’s release.