January 19th, 2015 | Album reviews

art by jared pittack

Innovative Leisure

There are only a select handful of musicians from Los Angeles today who have the abilities and sheer presence to be instantly recognizable from their sound alone—and Hanni El Khatib is definitely one of those musicians. His music has a raw power and grit that evokes the spirit of what rock ‘n’ roll is all about, without sounding dated or cheesy. Working with Dan Auerbach from the Black Keys on the production of his previous album proved to be a great pairing. However, on Moonlight this powerhouse decided to take the reins produced something himself—and while it’s similar to his previous work, it’s also an evolution and an even truer creation. This album is a moody and spiritual reflection of life, love and all the regrets and problems that come with it. At the same time, it seems to be a celebration in a sense—possibly a celebration simply of being able to carry on. The title track is a revelation, opening with a heavy blues guitar riff mixed with very hip-hop inspired drumbeats. One can’t help but be moved. Once the vocals come in with “Hate me… OK / I’ve seen this all before” in that signature raspy voice, you’re immediately drawn in. “Chasin’” is another enjoyable track that evokes a bit of soul, which pairs nicely with the Southern blues elements that appear on many of the songs. Ballad “Mexico,” which starts with a mariachi field recording, is a powerful song that turns into the most straight-up rock song on the album—and the bridge is quite haunting. Many tracks employ false endings that kick you with full force right when you thought they were over. Moonlight is a powerful and engaging album by one of L.A.’s most vital contemporary musicians. An instant classic.

—Zachary Jensen