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. The title cut opens the album with a deep and menacing groove that borders on hip-hop with it's half-barked verses and hooky, melodic chorus. "Chasin'" struts along on some nifty midnight funk riffs and the sleek, spacy "Dance Hall" plays with reverb like a creepy dub experiment. Rhythm has always been a priority for El Khatib, but the drums on this album feel as important as the guitar, and even the songs themselves. Drummer Ron Marinelli is given plenty of space to work and takes advantage of it with some really tasteful breaks and fills. Still, not all of Moonlight shows new growth. Tracks like "The Teeth" and "All Black" feel like retreads of the Black Keys/White Stripes signature garage riffery, and El Khatib's focus is still very much style- and attitude-oriented. He works hard to build his gritty sonic patina, but as a songwriter, it remains hard to identify his uniqueness. Moonlight is a step in the right direction, though, and it's nice to hear him stretch out creatively.
Worship Song (No. 2)
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